Core Decorum: fall

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Illustration courtesy of Cecilia Lang.

A solitary red leaf detaches from its home on a faithful old Maple tree near the local church on top of a hill lit up like fire. The leaf gracefully twists and turns, carried by a meandering breeze above the valley below. 

After the leaf finishes its dance, it is gently set down on a gravel road, and the wind then urges it along, stumbling and tumbling over itself until it is caught between the gravel and dirt of the road and the shoe of a man from the orchard, tired from a long day’s work. 

Upon hearing a slight crunch, the man stops, kneels down while letting out an involuntary groan and grasps the stem of the leaf with his calloused fingers. 

The work and sweat of the day forgotten, the man ponders it, turning the leaf around to let the dying light of the day ignite the fierce beauty contained in such a gentle form. 

He lets out a breath, pockets the leaf and continues along the road to a home where a little girl will soon be gazing in awe at a certain red leaf.

It is easy to fall in love with such a season. This time of the year is one marked by man’s rejoicing, leisure and fellowship with others. 

Our modern aesthetic is absolutely obsessed with fall. As soon as the end of August comes around, the local grocery store rolls out the red, orange and yellow displays for pumpkin spice everything, maple pecan pralines, coffee and *name that celebrity chef’s* best fall recipes.

The flannel shirts come out, scarves are wrapped, designer mugs are as essential as a pocket knife and your friends start to complain about their lack of thick socks. 

We watch scary movies, dress up as our favorite characters, gather with friends, eat candy and bundle up and go for leisurely strolls through the changing foliage. 

It should only take us a minute to notice the inherent oddity of such a notion: why do we love this time of the year associated with preparation for death and hostile conditions?

A brief glance through the annals of history, or your local library, will quickly reveal many tales of harsh, deadly winters. The flashing headlines of our modern winters reveal the horrors of avalanches, frostbite, hypothermia and lives lost to car crashes on icy roads. 

After all, who didn’t read about George Washington at Valley Forge, or the Donner party being snowbound in the Sierra Nevada Mountains?

You never hear of people resorting to cannibalism due to fair conditions and an abundance of attainable natural resources, such as are commonly found in the summer or spring.

If fall is the season where we prepare for death and hardship, then why is it so frequently our favorite time of the year? 

Though I am not entirely sure, I would posit that the reason we love fall is twofold. 

Firstly, there is a type of beauty that is inherent only to the season of fall. Change is simply in the air, and it is not the kind of change that is forceful, abrupt or caustic, but rather as natural as falling asleep and dreaming. 

This type of change is uniquely beautiful, and as Catholics we ought to note the special role that the fall season plays in our conceptions of beauty itself.

In the fall and winter, it is a lot harder to spend hours avoiding your family outside. You’re going to get cold and are really going to start to want that warm apple cider sooner or later, and that forces you to go inside and be with others. 

Hostile conditions outside cause a greater appreciation for, and increase the frequency of, the warm, comforting conditions we find when we are with our family and friends. 

Fall is the push that makes us see what we were missing before.

Whatever your favorite season might be, though it really should be fall, we can all take a minute to appreciate God’s creation for its beauty and its way of encouraging us to be better for others, ourselves and Him. 

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