Gray-blue is the color of the distant mountain, almost obscured by the light sage green scrub oaks at the edge of our country property on the outskirts of the Texas capital.
Baby raindrops lightly kiss the shiny tin roof above my head, making an ever-so-slight random pattern of sound, breaking the silence of this moist gray cloud-covered morning.
Packets of moisture shine on the dark green leaves of ivy that crawl like erratic, busy little ants in all directions on the rails of the deck.
Hints of red infiltrate the otherwise green leaves like old age creeps into our bodies, indicating fall is here, followed by the end of the season and the beginning of winter and a new year.
In Celebration of Fall
Fall is my most celebrated season, the biggest Thanksgiving feast for the eyes. It’s when our color shines the most, when we’ve graduated to a time when our wisdom is strong though our leaves may one day fall.
The contrast of seasons is demonstrated in my own household, where the spring greens of youth dominate our home as three 16-year-olds awkwardly seek independence and want adulthood too soon, just as my generation wish they could keep their vast wisdom but take on the bright greens of spring once again.
Wanting to Be Older
The hairs barely visible on my chin and the hint of a mustache never got shaved when I was a youth wanting to look older, and now, in the fall season, my sags and wrinkles make me want to look younger. When we’re young, we want to let go of youth, and when we age, we want to return to it.
The Life of Trees
I can’t imagine the fall leaves, in their stunning beauty, looking back at spring and wishing they were green. Instead they shine brilliantly in celebration, and we humans drive long distances to marvel at their color. They don’t stop shining because of the fear that they will one day become brown and crisp, and will soon leave their branches to dissolve into the ground and enrich the soil. Instead they embrace their role, their season, their purpose, as part of a cycle that endlessly repeats.
Be the Tree
Focus not on the season or the season to follow. In youth, spend not your time wishing you were older. In old age, focus not on wishing you were young. Just be the tree … the seedling absorbing the nourishment of light and water and growing out of the soil, or the thin growing sapling, feeling tall and on your way to being a master, or the giant mighty oak crowning the top of a hill, confidently spreading twisted and gnarled branches that reach out like vast open arms to embrace the sun, providing a safe place for birds to nest, a place where young energetic squirrels playfully jump across the wide and secure branches. Acorns fall from your tree and soon peek out of the soil below, and the seed creates a forest.
Live the Questions
“Have patience with everything that is unsolved in your heart and try to cherish the questions themselves, like closed rooms and like books written in a very strange tongue. Do not search now for the answers which cannot be given you because you could not live them. It is a matter of living everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, one distant day live right into the answer.” — Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
The Natural Flow
Joy is found in the discoveries and in the pursuit. The flow of water is too rapid and vast to overcome; let it flow over you like a rock in a raging river. Embrace each time, each season, each moment, whether you’re young wishing to be older, or old and wishing you were not suffering the aches of age.
The Purpose of Seasons
You were planted by elders before you. Your season — your tiny sprout peeking through the soil — was nourished by the fallen leaves before you, feeding your growth, your shiny green buds of spring leaves, your dark end-of-summer leaves, your coming fall leaves, your brilliant reds and yellows, your delicate brown, crunchy leaves, and even your escape from the tree as you float to the ground and into the soil. It is a season with a purpose.
You’ve been given the gift of life. Embrace it as it is.
Feel the Breeze
Your circumstances have been created for you for a reason. Change what needs to be changed, embrace what cannot be changed, but feel the breeze on your skin in every adventure, every moment. Like it or not, you’ve been given a purpose, and the questions you live will provide a clear direction.
Live it fully, embrace what is. Don’t ask why. The answer is in the season. Instead ask for guidance so you can make the best of the season you’ve been given.
PS: We all provide gifts to one another, and sometimes we don’t know the great value of the gifts we’ve been given. Gifts of difficult trials, gifts of opportunity, gifts that don’t seem like gifts at the time. Recently when I was talking artist Joe Paquet into presenting at the coming Plein Air Convention this April in San Francisco, he gave me the gift of the Rilke book, which is a bouquet of words every artist should read. Only a few pages in, its impact is mind-boggling. Thank you, Joe.
This week I’m so excited I could jump up and down with glee as I check the box for another bucket list painting spot. On Friday we begin Fall Color Week in the Canadian Rockies, where we’ll paint the rich color of aging aspens, and the snow-capped mountain peaks in front of lakes filled with turquoise blue-green glacial waters. I feel blessed to be able to go for a week, and to welcome the new friends I’ll make and amazing artists I’ll discover. These events are a gift to me. A week of painting not only makes me a better painter because I’m painting two or three canvases a day, it enriches my soul to be in the beauty of God’s great creation, and it reduces my stress to lose myself in piles of paint. Though doing something for oneself seems selfish, I’m more convinced than ever that it’s not selfish at all because it enhances our mental health, improves our outlook, and makes us happier and able to be better at our other responsibilities. Still, my absence from the family is hard for me and for them. I want to thank my wife for her patience and understanding, encouragement, and the increased work she takes on. She is a true blessing to me and our family.
Eric bring your woollies! We have had 18 to 24 inches of snow this past two days in the Banff area! Come prepared! Fall in Alberta can be any weather all in one day!
I took up painting about a year and a half ago and I had the complete pleasure to have attending PACE in Santa Fe. You’re going to visit one of my favourite places on earth.
I’m sure that you’ve gotten good help in planning your itinerary, but I just felt compelled to share some of my experiences and presumptuous recommendations.
You may know that Monday, Oct. 8 is Canadian Thanksgiving. So, on the weekend there will be a good amount of activity in the area. After the holiday, you’ll find the area around Kananaskis and out of town feeling completely remote. It’s quite easy to spend the day in areas where you’ll hardly see another person if you don’t want to. I’m sure you know that you can zip from your hotel up #40 to Hwy 1 to the town of Canmore and Banff and Lake Louise. But, you can instead loop back on 742 through the Spray Lakes and emerge with a magnificent viewpoint at Canmore. That Spray Lake area, BTW, is where Brokeback Mountain, Revenant, X-Men were filmed. Lot’s of great level spots, safely in the open just off road in parking lots with rudimentary but likely welcome bathroom facilities.
When we visit, we’ve had a habit of getting out early, like 5, 5:30 to drive the alternative roads from Banff and are frequently rewarded by fantastic animal sightings.
From Banff, there is the Minnewanka Loop, that’s an easy drive to Lake Minnewanka. At this time of year, the Wapiti bucks will have established their harems and it’s quite likely that you’ll see them resplendent lounging in the meadows while the buck fumes over them. At the lake itself – bighorns sheep are usually around and can be found to be comically cranky or alternatively playful. They are completely oblivious to anything that can’t be licked up off the roadway. NIce outhouses here as well.
You can drive Hwy 1 from Banff to Lake Louise. But, the way to go for animal sightings is Hwy 1A, also known as the Bow Valley Pkwy. Early morning drives here have rewarded us with Wapiti (elk), black bears, wolves and in the particular area where 1A turns west to Lake Louise, make a left to the ski lift. We’ve seen grizzly bears here several times. One 1A you’ll also find Johnson Canyon. totally worth it to make the short hike into the lower falls. On the weekend it might be busy, but on a week-day – very worthwhile.
So, if you listen to any of these recommendations, this is the MUST DO. When you get up to Lake Louise continue up the mountain to Morraine Lake. In photos, it’s often mistaken for Lake Louise, but it’s just got a soupcon of something more that’s unforgettable. To do this, you’re going to have to get up there before they close that road for the winter on or right after Thanksgiving Monday. Don’t miss it. It’s unreal. Outhouse available and a nice lodge with hot food and coffee. Lake Louise will be accessible all the time, so try to see this one early in your trip.
If you drive back on HWY 1, you’ll notice that there are overpasses across the highway. They are animal overpasses! This area was discovered to be a major migratory path for so much wildlife these were built so the animals could move back and forth. There are also large tunnels as well. Scientists have cameras on it to study the wildlife.
If you get a chance to do a day trip and the weather cooperates, please consider driving up to Jasper on the Icefields Parkway. Terrific highway, and probably one of the most spectacular drives in the world. Japer is actually my favorite part of the Rockies, but the area you’ve chosen is much more accessible.
Kananaskis Village as you know is miniscule. To stock up of supplies of snacks, drinks, and liquor, you want to do that in Canmore. Regular easy in and out supermarkets that aren’t Banff priced.
I’m afraid that it’ll be colder than you’re expecting. So, warm socks, good hiking boots and lots of layers.
I live in Winnipeg, and I would have loved to have joined this group. In fact, I’ll be in the area myself next week through some schedule serendipity. Let me just say that I needed to put in some priority couple time with my wonderful husband that week instead.
I know you’re going to have a wonderful trip. Happy painting to you and the entire group.
You mentioned Rilke, he has written many books……curious as to which one were you making reference to. Interested to know. Thank you
Eric, this is wonderful. Thanks! Annie
what wonderful words of wisdom – very refreshing
interesting powerful and embracing words to live by Eric Rhoads I love todays article
AS ALWAYS YOU TOUCH MY HEART WITH YOUR WORDS. I HAVE ALWAYS LOVED AUTUMN THE BEST OF THE SEASONS. THE COLORS, THE SMELL OF WOODSMOKE IN THE CRISP AIR. I AM IN THE AUTUMN OF MY LIFE AT 87 IN JANUARY. MY GOD HAS BEEN SO VERY GOOD TO ME. I AM SO VERY GLAD THAT A POET/ARTIST SUCH AS YOU HAS TOUCHED MY LIFE. THANK YOU.
Thank you enjoy my my morning coffees. Never heard of Rainer Maria Rilke, peeked my interest.
Thanks. Hope to paint with you one day in NY.
Another great newsletter. I love fall also, the heat is not my friend, so the coolness of fall is invigorating. The flowers bloom their prettiest blossoms. Butterflies, hummingbirds, geese’s honks even. The sights and sounds with smell of pine in my backyard retreat is one of my favorite places to be. We really have great weather up here iin Amarillo. I cannot join you all for the fall foliage in CO. But if you ever want to paint out in Palo Duro Canyon, we have beautiful cottonwoods that change a beautiful golden yellow. We always have the cedars and the beautiful Spanish skirts. Perhaps Monday I will join up with our PleinAir group. Working in studio mostly, commissions of pets before Christmas. I might have to be content to pick up oak leaves, pine cones, and acorns. I bring them into my studio for inspiration and thankfulness for this beautiful season! Paint, and spread the Joy and be grateful! Happy Painting Y’all
Writers and artists are so akin to each other, and when they occupy the same brain, it is hard to distinguish which ability came first. To live in full color and employ the richness of melodic syllables to express one’s life is often thought a brain divided but is in truth, a mind in synchronic expression. Thank you for your contribution to my inspired morning!
Thank you, Eric, for this one. I am 69 years old and dealing with the passing of my Father and the care of my Mother this year … and trying to paint and do all the other “selfish” things for myself. You remind me they are not really selfish, but what keeps us able to do all the hard things that come our way. I am so feeling the passing of time and not enough time left to do all I wish I could. Bucket list … can’t even start one. Don’t fuss… everyone does not have the financial means to have a wish list which is often called a bucket list.
But, getting back to you premise… embracing where we are in our life journey is important. Thanks for your post!
Bring warm clothing in the Rockies, was cold this week and, some apparence of snow in the forecast. Wish I was there. Hope seeing some of the artists paintings.