It's almost like trying to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow - an elusive feeling, and you find yourself in a cool, crisp wind thinking - where is it? what is it? And you never find it, but oh, listen! It rustles on the wind or crunches under your feet as you walk. You feel it in a vacant, lonely place inside of you, an empty, aching echo that needs filling.
It was late this year. The trees are two weeks behind in turning - so say the ubiquitous they, who are also elusive. But this morning, I sensed it in the second frost of the season, saw a hint of it in the Bradford pears just now beginning to blaze, in the yellowing leaves of wild grapevines, edges curled like old parchment, the history of a fallen season scribed gold in their veins. I decided if I could not find it, I would follow it, mapping a course for places it would have visited first. I headed west, toward peach country, pushed along by a nipping north wind, and as each mile fell behind me, I saw where it had drifted like an autumnal will-o'-the wisp: grass, hoary and glittering in the early sun; a sudden burst of scarlet flaming through the green; saffron and sage punctuating the distant pines as the hills rose and fell with the open road.
I stopped at a roadside market where the vendors were bundled against the first blast of autumn air. The shed was lined with baskets and baskets of heirloom apples - Pink Lady, Winesap, Golden Delicious. Sweet potatoes and pumpkins - mellow and fragrant. It had been here. We shivered together for a while, and for the vendors' time and conversation, I purchased a mixed bag of apples and sweet potatoes, a taste of the elusive season.
And I drove farther into autumn, where houses were sparse and colors were deeper. Not yet, not quite, but I could see the hues begin the burn - a flaming testament to living, a burst of wisdom whispering secrets in the north wind. I'll never catch it, or touch it, but it will ruffle my hair with a chilly hand. It will tease my tongue with its fruity and mellow flavors, and I will lose myself in its colors, melding into saffron, sage and scarlet - a celebration of life.