There is a moment at the end of summer, not quite autumn, when Nature holds her breath. There is a silence, une petite pause, a magic stillness as a few leaves drift down. And when one looks up, the still-shimmering trees portend what is to come, when the trees will finally let go their leaves.
In 2019, I sat in the courtyard of the Eugene Delacroix Museum in Paris. The artist’s courtyard wasn’t perfect; it was a bit disorderly. But it was quiet—no sounds of modern life intruded. A few leaves drifted down silently, the air was just a touch cool, and the light had that marvelous clarity found in Paris on a clear day.
I felt time suspended there, a magical interlude, a perfect day, brilliant, colorful, peaceful. Everyone seemed to sense it. No one was speaking, everyone was looking at the trees, the sky, the clouds. I did not want to leave.
Two years later, I sat in my own garden, finishing my memoir, The Girl on the Belvedere. Covid-19 had mostly run its race, and had won too many times, but life was slowly returning to normal.
It had abruptly changed from summer to early autumn, and I remembered that magical time in the Delacroix garden. The late afternoon sun no longer disappeared above my fountain; it had shifted to the south. It illuminated my favorite writing space with golden hues. The sky was bluer and had lost its whitish hue, and the ferns were lit as from within in the newly-slanted light. The cicadas sensed the difference, too, and screamed rather than sang. There was a stillness that I noticed in the changing light that is not present in the other seasons, much like the stillness of that garden in Paris. It was very beautiful but left me tinged with a touch of sadness. Another summer had flown, and while this was the summer of 2021, and therefore yet of Covid, I still mourned its passing.
Autumn is always beautiful here in the southwest: colorful and crisp, with the sounds of a high school band rehearsing in the distance, for football season is upon us. Truffle the Poodle is content to stay outside with me; it is a touch cooler and she does not pant as she does in the Oklahoma summer heat. The evenings are tender, with stilled leaves and newly grown rabbits feasting on the grass. The neighborhood voices are more muted—homework has been assigned for the schoolage children. All too soon the deep dark mysteriousness of winter will be upon us, and no matter how mild, I will miss the colors and fragrances of the warmer seasons. And I will long for the magic of warm slanting sunlight.