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Savoring the autumn

Sept. 22, 2008

by Ivan Raconteur

Autumn is just around the corner. I can feel it in my bones.

Soon, we will hear the rustle of dried leaves being swept along by the autumn wind and feel the first crackle of frost in the air.

These things evoke images of outdoor football games (the way it was meant to be played) and standing in dew-wet grass around a campfire drinking red wine out of a steel cup (rules are relaxed in the outdoors).

Frost warnings have already been issued up north, and it won’t be long before we wake up to a lacy glaze of ice crystals on the puddles.

The nights are drawing in, and the precious autumn days are getting shorter.

Time passes more quickly in the autumn. It is my favorite season, and no matter how much I try to hold on to it, it slips by too quickly.

In the winter, we want the time to pass faster. We look forward to the first glorious spring day when we can shed our heavy coats and enjoy the delicious freedom of cavorting outdoors in our shirtsleeves.

In the spring, we look forward to summer, with its warmer weather and vacations.

By August, we are often looking ahead to autumn, when the oppressive heat and humidity will be replaced by warm, sunny afternoons and cool, comfortable nights.

But when the autumn finally arrives, we want to hang on, to slow things down. We are not in any hurry to face the dreary, bitter months ahead.

Life is a bit like the seasons. When we are young, we can't wait until we are older. We are always in a hurry, impatient to reach the next grade at school, or wishing we were old enough to drive, buy beer, or vote.

Perhaps it is only with age that we learn to be patient. If we are very lucky, we learn this sooner than later.

True patience is a matter of learning to appreciate the here and now rather than rushing ahead to see what is around the next bend in the trail.

If we concentrate, and if we pay attention to what is going on all around us, we soon learn that it is not the destination that is most important; it is the journey.

If we are patient, we may still get to the same destination, but our arrival will be all the sweeter if we take our time getting there.

It is not unlike a cross-country expedition.

Suppose, for example, we were to take a road trip from Minnesota to Seattle.

If we are young, we might be tempted to rush. In our haste, we would miss a lot of the beauty along the way.

If, on the other hand, we are older and wiser, we might take a different approach.

As we set out along I-94, we might take more time to look out the windows.

Instead of blowing through like a williwaw, covering ground as quickly as possible, we might think about the country that we are passing through and its history.

We might even be able to find some beauty on the prairies of North Dakota.

If we take time to study the texture of the land, the sight will be even more dramatic when the vast Big Sky Country of Montana begins to unfold before our eyes.

Montana is special no matter how old we are, and it is worth taking some side trips along the way.

After experiencing the flatness of the plains, we might be more ready to appreciate the peaks of the twin Lewis and Livingston mountain ranges jutting provocatively into the sky ahead of us as we approach Glacier National Park.

The patient traveler will take time to thoroughly explore these spectacular mountains and the glens that separate them before moving on.

Formed some 170 million years ago when enormous formations of precambrian rocks were pushed over the top of younger rocks from the cretaceous period, they are worth the visit.

Back on I-94, we would continue westward, and cross the continental divide.

We would soon reach the verdant valleys of Coeur d’Alene, and the lush dampness that surrounds the 30-mile long jewel of a lake which stands out in stark contrast to the vast prairies we crossed earlier.

Here, too, the seasoned excursionist will take time to immerse himself in the beauty around him. He will not rush. He will savor every inch of the dramatic terrain and its lush blanket of coniferous cover.

Those who stay on the highway will miss some of the incredible views that can be found at the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course, which borders the lake. The 14th green is an engineering marvel, and is billed as the world’s only moveable floating green. The distance is changed by a cable system under the lake, and the green has its own docking area.

Eventually, even the patient traveler will have to move on.

As he descends from the Snoqualamie Pass over the Cascade Range (perhaps stopping to enjoy a pint of hoppy goodness at the Snoqualamie Falls Brewing Company), it is a short 50-mile drive down through the foothills and across the floating bridge into Seattle.

After pausing at one of the espresso shops that occupy every corner, the throbbing caffeinated pulse of the city will begin to envelope him.

He will taste the salty breeze drifting in from the Pacific and feel the vibrant life of the eclectic city.

If anything, the experience will be even more intense as the result of a bit of divagation along the way.

We get more out of life by taking the time to enjoy the journey than we would if we simply hurried from destination to destination.

Autumn, both in terms of the time of year and in life itself, is a season that passes much too quickly.

Instead of racing to catch up, we should slow down and savor the experience.

Patience is a good lesson to learn, and we don’t need to wait for autumn to learn it.