The Forgotten Food Group # 3 What a Fall We’re Having
by Christina Carson
This year our northern Alabama autumn has outdone itself, as if New England has suddenly slipped south and brought its Jacob’s robe of many colors. We now have the reds, pinks, purples, golds, and oranges of the northern states snugged in between towering feathery southern pines. Now that’s a breathtaking combination.
As a kid, if asked I would have told you each season was pretty much the same from year to year. But now with the fuller attention of an adult, I notice great differences. Some springs dribble in rather than offering a full panoply of flowers. Some falls go from green to brown and crunchy. So where does a fall like this one come from?
Scientists have answers that involve temperature, moisture and leaf pigmentation, but that doesn’t answer the question for me. My interest is captured by how it is that so many things come together so precisely to create a fall like this particular one. Science can’t answer those questions.
I remember sitting in my freshman year biology class. The course started with cosmology, and I had never heard of the Big Bang theory to that point in my life. I sat mouth agape at the awe such notions of creation and vastness aroused in me. I distinctly remember thinking, as that section drew to a close and left us with more questions than answers, “Oh, thank god, there are still mysteries left.” Yes I was that unworldly, and yes mystery was what fascinated me most. But for a number of years, science continued to own me and solving mysteries became my passion. The price I paid for that knowledge, however, was a world that got smaller and more organized by rules and principles. The mystery and the awe it generated were disappearing and that didn’t work for me.
Fall is one of those glorious mysteries that science can’t fully explain, and I will keep it that way. Not to discredit those who have described the inner workings of leaves for there is a certain marvel in seeing what goes on, but I require more intuitive than cognitive accountings of this world these days, more emptiness, less surety and the awe that comes from such. For whether we describe this world in depth or not, it will continue to handle its own affairs with us or without us. And like a million piece orchestra, it will hold the rhythms of this universe and harmonize the notes in a way we will never grasp. For now more than ever, I get it. I think we were meant to stumble over the cracked sidewalks agog in the awesomeness of autumn more than describing the chemical interactions that create color. There is no doubt in this almost 70 year old mind that our attention is better spent garnering a bigger picture, one that keeps things whole rather than persisting in divvying things up. And we are the ultimate mystery in all this, one which science hasn’t gotten even close to solving as insightfully as Pama Rab Sel, who offers in “The Divine Moment:”
Let me appraise you of something:
You are one of a string of beings; an ongoing radiation…
What was not engaged, you inherit as a duty.
What was accomplished, you have as a strength.
Thus what was ignored or sidestepped, you pass on as a load to be carried.
And only your secret victories enlighten posterity.
Remember: We need at least one serving of awe every day to live a life of peace, harmony and wonder.
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