We’ve had a series of cold nights lately that left pockets of frost resting on roofs and lawns. The leaves are tired, too, and seem to welcome cold mornings that signal a break and an end to their dance with sunlight. It’s time to rest.
Frigid nights hit the accelerator on the transformations we expect this time of year. Yellow and red trees on the hillsides surrounding Duluth are framed by pines that focus the brilliance of the change.
The other morning, staring out the kitchen window to the east before reading the headlines and arrival of the day’s coffee by the in-home barista, I watched a light breeze stir the air a half block down the street. Leaves made shiny from dew fluttered to the ground, twisting in the sunlight as they fell.
It was a magical moment, as if someone had emptied their pockets carelessly and precious coins tumbled to the ground. It was truly golden.
There are times when the flow of a day is suspended and an instant makes an enduring impression. It lingers through the years and nestles in a special place in our head where it comes drifting back from other recollections of sight, sound and smell. This was one of those times, but there are many others.
In St. Paul, before a multitude of school buses and working parents hauled kids in the morning to scattered classrooms, there was the neighborhood school. It required at most, a walk of several blocks to the playground where my friends and I awaited the start bell at St. Columba’s.
In the fall, as the leaves came down and stacked up on the sidewalks next to the concrete retaining walls before the Winkels and Nelsons, I’d kick my way through gilded piles as I walked down the block grabbing bundles of fragrant foliage to throw at my younger sister and her friends.
Leaving the metro core and living in northern Minnesota, my work life the first few years required frequent trips to a Canadian border town. The trip back from Roseau to Bemidji was through a hallway of shimmering aspen interspersed with the occasional red maple in a farmyard as I drove home after a long day of providing therapy.
If I took the Baudette route home, after miles of peat bogs, I’d have a chance to drive a 26-mile corridor on Highway 71 between Blackduck and Bemidji. I’d slow down enough to take in the roadsides illuminated by the maples, oaks and aspen. It was a sure way to eliminate a speeding ticket on the home stretch.
When a mental health day was called for, I had the luxury of driving to Itasca State Park and taking a bike ride around the 17-mile drive; a chance for reflection and refueling. A stop at Preacher’s Grove down by the lake in the early morning sun, with the yellows rebounding off the lake’s surface, helped put the brakes on workplace anxiety and ensured a return to a more serene place.
Golden moments don’t come just in the midst of a forest or river valley. On a way to a wedding in Whitefish, Montana, my wife and I crossed the broad plains of North Dakota at harvest time when gold seemed to cascade from the sky and spread out in all directions, unrolling like a gilded carpet made brilliant by an indigo sky. It was another time to be tucked away in memory, to be drawn out when the world turns rushed and pale. Reminiscence, too, is golden.
Doug Lewandowski is a retired counselor, educator and licensed psychologist. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.