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It’s happened again outside my study window: November’s sunshine revealed the initial stripping of my lilac bush, its mottled leaves aproning its base. Yesterday’s gloom had shrouded its lopsided girth, its leaves still holding on like disgruntled dowagers still plucking their eyebrows. Only nail-hard buds tip each branch, with promise of new greening. 

Like the leaves on my lilac bush, I’m being hurtled toward winter, with its with browns, grays, and blacks supplanting autumn’s riotous display of reds and golds. Less daylight, like a vintage camera, will snap short the bug-eaten colors in spent gardens.

As days pass, the cold will tighten its icy tourniquet around flailing energies, shiver steps of dog-walkers, and coat trees and shrubs with filigree caverns and glistening angles. 

More darkness, stealthy as a thief, will snuff out the waning light and plunge us within an electrified world, its artificiality short-changing our perceptions of things.

But there’s a mysterious richness in darkness—an invitation to listen to its silence and be still within the present moment. Like a downy comforter, let it open your imagination, cell by cell, to its cheery warmth, to unseen realms filled with fresh color—they are there.

In the interim, though, my lilac bush will continue dropping its leaves to the bleached grasses below, giving even more prominence to its buds; unlike them, though, I wait for a different kind of spring where the colors never fade—It could take longer than five months.

A sugar maple flames above me. Slippery winds nudge a single leaf from its mooring:

Like a gymnast, it flips, sworls, twists, down, down, down. Then cartwheels upon glistening brick walk until flattened. Musk steams from the landing.

Prostrate, the leaf opens to the inevitable: Its ocher stem dried like a useless umbilical cord; hairy veins, empty of nutrients. Stillness gawks at the sacrifice.

Yet such decay rejuvenates the cycle. Again, spring’s leafing will flicker beneath sun-drenched skies.

Ahead of us, it was just starting: October’s pizzazz like the carnival barker, with top hat and swinging a gold cane.

The asphalt path, still moist from yesterday’s rains and imprinted by a pastiche of saffron and rusts, was its first welcome. More came in quick succession: mimosas and maples still clinging to their dried and torn leaves, resembling half-opened parasols; sun-warmed winds teasing tendrils of vines curlicued around plank fences; islands of leafy shade inviting the next footfall; and within a large evergreen, twittering sparrows sounding like jokesters filled with stories.

Another season, outstanding for its brilliance-to-faded beauty is upon us. Even its eventual stripping has its own message, for senses attuned to it. Within each revelation comes wisdom, trust in the Changer, and ultimate meaning.

All the more to intentionally focus upon each day’s pizzazz and listen for the joy. It’s there.

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