Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2003, 10:14 AM

Autumnal musings

The seasons are changing. I can hear it in the song on the wind. The mornings are crisp and clear and the sun, unfiltered, intrudes upon my sleep before the alarm has sounded. The world is yawning and realizing that soon it will sleep, but not yet. There is work to be done and there will be no nodding off just yet.

The leaves rattle in the trees like the sound of despair in my bones. Many times the autumn has visited me, tempted me like a lover to lie down and sleep, but I am not easily seduced. Many years I have answered the shrill challenge of winter and have come away victorious. I find that it takes a little longer each year to warm back up. I find that the spring has sprung before I can appreciate the decadent dance of the daffodil, so short and so sweet. The summer comes on like a bull rush and as oppressive as the Red Army. The seasons, which I so longed to taste and experience in my earlier days, have become hostile. They have a certain predictability and sameness that fosters apathy. I find my stimulation in the transitions; in the shoulder seasons; in the delicate ballet of the budding leaves and noisily running sap; in the slow wheezing sigh of the autumn breeze and gentle diminution of the sun's presence in the sky. I find myself in the autumn.

The autumn holds a certain nostalgic quality. It is a poignant sadness that leaves you feeling as though you have nothing left to look forward to but the contemplation of days gone by. The fall casts a despondent shadow that is not easy to avoid, and at the same time is so comfortable to wrap around your mind and body. It brings balance, closure, relief, contentment.

Autumn is the season of Zen. It's an accounting of the actions that have come before. It is a settling of the tab of life. It is the petal falling on the still pond in every haiku.

I wish that I could live my life in the autumn, always remembering the past, but not ready to sleep; to be in balance and objectively measure the events in my life; to carry on with a serene gentle grace and unfaltering steps to the end, whatever be that end.

That would be beauty personified. That would be a taste of happiness that never dies, but lives forever on the tongue, full of warmth and body. That is where I long to be evermore.