Several years ago–perhaps when I was in my mid 40s–I wrote a reflection on middle age in which I likened that phase of life to autumn. It seemed an apt metaphor at the time; I still believe it is relevant. But I will soon be 59, and it occurred to me as I reread the piece that I can clearly see early winter on the horizon.
But I am not a senior citizen. I can’t collect Social Security. I am not eligible for Medicare. And 60 is, after all, the new 50.
So it is still autumn in my life. And that makes sense as I now live in South Carolina where autumn seems to last longer than it does in Connecticut. I can still call myself middle-aged. It’s not winter yet.
THE AUTUMN OF OUR LIVES
If the average lifespan is 80 odd years, then “middle age” is really the autumn of our lives. As such, it is indeed a splendid place to be, for autumn is by far the most beautiful season of the year. And it is an equally wonderful part of life.
We spend the first 20 years or so in the spring of our lives; growing and developing into maturity. The next two decades are spent blossoming in the summer of our lives. It is a time when we bear fruit, and we work hard to nurture our creations and to sustain our bounty.
In the autumn of our lives, however, we can finally show our true colors, like nature’s beauty all around us. After sweating through the long, hot days of summer (for the most part happy, but often arduous days) we can start to harvest the fruits of our labor. We should not be tempted to work so hard through this season that suddenly one day we wake up and discover that winter has arrived. Winter is not time to start learning how to enjoy life, after all.
Autumn is the time to enjoy one’s life; before the vibrant leaves fall off the trees and they become bare. The autumn of our life reflects the splendor of those deciduous trees as they display their glorious hues. Like the fall foliage, we are in many ways more beautiful now than we were in our young, green state. And we will never be quite this gorgeous again.
But autumn truly is a bittersweet time. The days may still have summer-like warmth, but the nights can have the chill of impending winter. That is why we should savor each splendid day of this season. For too soon a barren landscape replaces the magnificent surroundings, and the frost descends to destroy the summer’s last blooms.
As surely as the dappled autumn sunlight fades earlier each afternoon from the sky and gives way to the shortened days of winter, so too the bright days of our lives begin to diminish. We cannot stop the season’s progression, but we need not hasten its end by our failure to admire all that it has to offer.
We should make our way carefully through autumn, stopping often to appreciate its gifts and taking time to notice nature’s most dynamic exhibition. Life gives us autumn as a reward for surviving the fickle weather of our spring and the sweltering heat of our summer. It is a season of good fortune; one to be celebrated and cherished.
Autumn truly is the best season of our lives.