The morning skies are cloudless and blue, these days. Leaves are either wisping around or dive-bombing my head, and my footsteps crunch over the carpeted sidewalks. The mountains stand stock still at the end of every street, but their faces change color each day, darkness sliding down their sides as the reds and oranges and yellows fall silent and bare black branches turn into the blue ridges that netted them their name. All around me, the world is dying in grand, operatic fashion.
This is, hands down, no questions asked, my favorite season in my favorite place.
The hard thing about loving dying things is, I suppose, fairly obvious: these things, they die.
And who doesn’t appreciate a good, solid wipeout once in a while? Noah got the flood to cleanse the world and Jonah spent a few days in a fish belly to clear his head from all that genocidal bitterness. Vesuvius decimated Pompeii, Sherman burned Georgia to the ground, and the Phoenix regularly reduces itself to ashes. There’s a certain satisfaction in this kind of complete destruction, an enjoyment of watching an entirety be annihilated in an instant.
Dostoyevsky says this is the most advantageous of all advantages – the pleasure of suffering, the value of demolition.
This is not just wallowing, though that’s certainly a steep precipice of hazard here. This is not just self-indulgent weeping, though there are certainly charms and comforts to be had in that. This appreciation of death, the beauty of failure, the love of things fading and imploding and temporal…seems primal, deeply satisfying in ways that I don’t understand and fail to appreciate.
But, here I am, walking through falling leaves and watching the world die around me…and loving it with a persistent and ecstatic melancholy that I cannot seem to shake. Here is the world coming and here is the world going. Here you are being born and here you are dying. Here is something true, and here it is proven false, and oh, right, here’s another thing to try but don’t hold on too hard because you know it’ll dissolve right through the cracks in your fist.
It would be easy to say that death clears the way for new life, and maybe that is true. Maybe there is something strong and sturdy and full of grace crouching just around the corner. But the trees tell me that it takes a lot longer than that. There are months yet to be lived without leaves, weeks yet to come in gray and white silence, endless days of darkness with which to contend before that newness creeps around again.
The trees must be used to it by now. Why aren’t I?