Oh, how I enjoy my morning walks these days. Not only do I appreciate the cool, but not too cool temperatures, but I love seeing the ways homes are decorated for fall and Halloween. Pumpkins sprawled around tree trunks or marching up and down stairs. Monster-sized spiders stretched in tree limbs and every manner of ghoul and ghost extending their bony arms to unsuspecting neighbors.
Most homes in our neighborhood are painted in conservative and neutral colors–browns and beiges, grays, maybe crisper whites with black trim–and seeing the pop of pumpkin orange, even just a solitary one perched near the front door, makes me smile.
What motivates us to ornament our homes with seasonal decorations?
For families with young children the decorations are part of the excitement and the customs leading to Halloween, but what about the rest of us? Why am I attracted to images of black cats in windows and why do I chuckle when I see witch legs pushing up out of the middle of a garden?
Decorating for fall and later for the Christmas holidays is a way to mark the changing of the seasons; to be aware of time passing. We come to the end of another summer, and we are close to the end of another year. We ask ourselves, “Wow, how did that happen? It seems like the weeks and months pass even faster now.”
We may check in with ourselves about the plans we made for the summer months. During our children’s growing up years our family made a “summer list” of all the things we wanted to do and the places we wanted to go. We added to and adapted the list as the summer weeks passed, and as we crossed off the accomplished items on the master list, we were aware of the passage of time and the desire to live fully and enjoy summer’s gifts.
Moving into fall may be a time to check in with ourselves about our hopes and plans for the summer months. How did we do on our summer list–official or unofficial? I praise myself for accomplishing the main writing task I set for myself, but at the same time I knew I had not enjoyed time in our “Paris” side garden as often as I had planned. Next year, I tell myself and file that thought in my imaginary summer file.
Arranging pumpkins on the front steps, I reminisce about other falls. I remember moving our daughter into her dorm freshman year of college and now this fall she and our son-in-love launched their daughter, our granddaughter, into college life. I remember our son’s football games, my father standing proudly on the sidelines, and this fall my husband attended our grandson’s middle school football games. I remember so many “first days of school,” both as a student and as a teacher, but also as a mother waving goodbye. “May this be the best school year ever.” I remember fall trips to New England and Northern Wisconsin to see the fall colors and one special September when we spent two weeks in Paris to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.
The leaves swirl around me, and I am flooded with memories.
Seasonal decorations spark memories, for sure, but they also are a way to acknowledge ongoing transitions in our lives. I am a year older than I was last fall and I wonder what I will experience in the coming months. Beyond getting out cold-weather clothes and including soups on the weekly menu, how do I prepare for the coming winter time of my life? Who am I now and who is it I can be, will be, as I transition into winter grace?
It seems to me that these autumn decorations affirm life, even as we move into a time of stillness and bareness in our physical landscape and perhaps spiritual landscape, as well.
Does this sound too bleak? I hope not, for I rejoice in the pumpkins, witches and ghosts. And perhaps that is why we adorn our homes in fall splendor–for the pleasure of it. The pleasure of the doing and the pleasure in the giving.
An Invitation: What sights of fall bring you pleasure? I would love to know.