There’s nothing quite like a walk in the brisk cold autumn air to remind you that you’re alive. Despite the fact that all of nature is going dormant around you, everything reminds you that you are not. The red and orange leaves surround you in the air and on the ground. And everywhere you step they crisply crackle and crunch. The cold air lashes your face and sting your eyes til tears slide indifferently down your cheeks. All you can think about is getting to the next warm shelter to nurse feeling back into your finger tips, ears, and nose. Once there, though, you feel vague, purposeless, and dull. Outside, in the cold, urgency fills you, a sense of vitality. Maybe that’s part of our ancestral inheritance. When the weather turned cold in the wild, it would have been imperative to find shelter fast in order to stay alive. And so, thousands of years later, we do not cherish the idea of the cold, we crank our central heating systems to blast us with warm dry air at all times. This way, we feel cozy and safe and comfortable on command. Could we be denying ourselves a lively, annual reminder that we are alive? Could we be dulling our senses to the miracle of our own existence? Humans are frail creatures, sensitive to heat, sensitive to cold, bare to the world without fur. Satisfying our need to survive with houses and heating systems and high-tech insulating micro-fiber shirts, we might be forgetting that drive, that urgency in the cold, reminding us of what we are.
The trees shed their leaves in the fall to prepare for winter. They recognize the seasonal changes and prepare for the drop in temperature and quality of the light in order to continue surviving to next spring. What results is a vibrant display of colors on branches and on the ground and floating through the air. Might this be a better way to think or to live? The trees are more aware of their own existence than we are of ours. We modify our thermostats to be able to continue daily living as it is in all seasons. The fact that we are able to do this is quite remarkable, technologically. But how much more beautiful would it be to live in sync with the reality of the planet rather than the reality of our schedules? To remember, alongside the trees, that we are alive, and never forget it all through the winter.
Not that we should all make a point of contracting pneumonia every year. But the sensation of the cold autumn wind is too remarkable to try to forget or avoid. When else are we so aware of the presence of our ears? Or the air itself stinging our eyes? Or our warm red blood as it rushes away from our fingertips, leaving them pale and wrinkled? When else are we left breathless after a simple walk down the street? There is vitality in the autumn wind. We would do well to not forget it.