Falling for ‘fall’, leaves and all

By John Lewis

It’s autumn — so here we are on the cusp of something dark, cold and brooding.

The leaves on the verandah grapevine are now wine dark and about to fall.

The next breath of wind should see them disappear into the garden or between the mirbu boards.

The man next door is already out with his absurd leaf blower, moving the little golden reminders from patio to kerbside where they wait to be picked up by somebody else or left to rot.

The Americans, not a particularly lyrical nation when it comes to language, have adopted the word ‘‘fall’’ when it comes to describe this time of year.

‘‘Fall’’ is a good name for the season between summer and winter.

Everything falls during autumn — leaves, temperatures, darkness, rain, and emotion.

It’s a time to start the first fire and hunker down and look at the cold stars or out the window at rain and leaves falling. Now is the time to light candles in the loungeroom because the flicker of a flame is a thing of enchantment during the long fall of evenings.

Dangerous perhaps, but mysterious too.

Then, with the falling days comes the rise of beauty.

When leaves die they grow more beautiful, as if the approach of death brings a final burst of life.

I like French thinker and author Albert Camus’s description of this time of year:

‘‘Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower,’’ he said.

In other words, there is the promise of beauty and great things to come even when the world around us is dying into winter.

And this comes from a man who believed that life had no meaning — it was simply absurd.

Then, how does a man who believes life is meaningless live his life?

Well, Camus’s answer was to enjoy the small things, day by day, leaf by leaf, season by season.

Every time we try to impose a grand scheme on things we will be disappointed, because people are frail, things fall apart and the universe is cold.

Lately, there has been much hand-wringing over the state of the world from climate change to the lurch towards extremism, right wing politics, nationalism, demagogues and trade wars.

Last week’s election result brought much anguish to many people hoping for a change of government, a change of attitude, a change of living.

It’s very easy to fall into despondency and shut the door because ‘‘winter is coming’’.

But we don’t live in a medieval fantasy where chaos and death is always around the corner. We live in the real, here and now, of another beautiful autumn with the promise of another spring.

I don’t know how the world will resolve it’s problems, but I agree with Camus that a retreat into the safety of a grand meaning, whether it’s religion, or pure science, or economics, or political dogma, will always end in misery.

This weekend I’m going to sweep up the leaves, walk through the bush and feel the autumn sun on my face then have lunch at a cafe in Shepparton.

I might look out my window at the world falling — leaf by leaf.

It’s all rather meaningless and absurd, but that’s the point.

John Lewis is a senior reporter at the News.