Yesterday, I wrote about one of Tolkien’s short stories: Leaf by Niggle.
Among other things, Leaf by Niggle is a story about a painter who senses an urgency within himself to complete something important before his time runs out. Recently, I have been putting the final polish on a picture book that I am creating about a similar sense of urgency that takes place during the fall. I noticed that in Leaf by Niggle, Tolkien notes that the time of his story takes place during the autumn, andTolkien also mentioned autumn in his book The Fellowship of the RIngs:
“He found himself wondering at times, especially in the autumn,
about the wild lands, and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his dreams.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
Autumn in the Ozarks – Jacki Kellum Watercolor
Over the years, I have noticed that several authors have mentioned the word “autumn” in their writings. At times, the writer is merely celebrating the colors of autumn:
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
“Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn–that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness–that season which has drawn from every poet worthy of being read some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.”
― Jane Austen, Persuasion ―
But I have noted that at other times, writers have suggested other feelings that they have about the third season of the year.
“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!”
― Humbert Wolfe ―
At times, the autumnal sentiment is almost a foreboding reference to the fact that a person is approaching the winter of his life:
“A moral character is attached to autumnal scenes; the leaves falling like our years, the flowers fading like our hours, the clouds fleeting like our illusions, the light diminishing like our intelligence, the sun growing colder like our affections, the rivers becoming frozen like our lives–all bear secret relations to our destinies.”
“That country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain.”
One of my favorite movies is about autumn and one for which Ray Bradbury wrote:
“First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. Not that all months aren’t rare. But there be bad and good, as the pirates say. Take September, a bad month: school begins. Consider August, a good month: school hasn’t begun yet. July, well, July’s really fine: there’s no chance in the world for school. June, no doubting it, June’s best of all, for the school doors spring wide and September’s a billion years away.
But you take October, now. School’s been on a month and you’re riding easier in the reins, jogging along. You got time to think of the garbage you’ll dump on old man Prickett’s porch, or the hairy-ape costume you’ll wear to the YMCA the last night of the month. And if it’s around October twentieth and everything smoky-smelling and the sky orange and ash gray at twilight, it seems Halloween will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bedsheets around corners.”
Although the movie Something Wicked This Way Comes was made by Disney, it is a bit scary for young children and its impact is not at all the kind of emotion that I hope to conjure with the picture book that I am currently writing about the fall. While it is true that autumn might be a symbol for the coming of old age, it is also symbolic of a time of rebirth.
“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen.
“Life begins again when it gets crisp in the fall.”
The picture book that I am currently writing about autumn is about the scurrying around that animals do as they prepare for the winter, but the tone is positive. It is a celebration of the ever-renewing capacity of life itself.
“Aprils have never meant much to me, autumns seem that season of beginning, spring.”
But I am not sure that anyone has better captured the renewing capacity of nature better than Simon & Garfunkel”