A serene solo hike yesterday; a gray day with drizzle, fog, and mist – none of which dampened my spirits. The change is in high gear now; the lush overlay of summer’s foliage is dying away, peeling back, as the skeleton of the forest reveals itself – its bones. As they go, much like yelling “Geronimo” when jumping off a cliff or out of a plane, the leaves silently do the same with brilliant flashes of color before leaving their grasp and floating to the ground. This is a special time as the woods transition from their thick and full palettes of summer green to the muted subtle shades of gray and brown of winter. They do not go gently into that good night; they first explode with colors; colors that are contrary to all they’ve been throughout their life. Like good soldiers, they wear their green and do their duty, alike all. But at the end? When it is time to pass? They find tones and hues of reds and yellows and oranges, unique to each. The proverbial blaze of glory!
And how many time have we seen the similar in people we’ve known? People that shouldered up and did their duty throughout their lives, and towards the end – the gray years – they morph into a dazzling display of colors so opposite the mantel they wore for their lives. They write, they paint, they sculpt, they draw – they poke holes in themselves, in their shells, to let the brilliant light out to finally shine from within. And it is breathtaking when that happens.
One might argue that this actually a sad thing, rather than the beautiful change that I am seeing. Why couldn’t these folks have been this way their whole life? Why did they have to wait until the end to explode with color? Surely a loaf of bread is worthless if taken out of the oven after only 10 minutes of baking? And that corn picked from the stalk two days after forming? Useless. All thing need their time to grow, to mature, to ripen; yes, even humans.
I am reminded of a dear departed friend. He spent his life in the engineering community of the industrial base. A highly successful and noteworthy career at that – I was told by others that he was the genius that first developed and began to widely use exploded-view diagrams for industrial products; uses such as parts and disassembly instruction. And he did so until he retired. Then, he immersed himself in the studies of prehistoric people of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. He was curator of the Bronson Museum and research director for the Narragansett Archaeological Society. He became a leader in the research of the thousands of years of occupancy of this area through field research and study. He took his artistic skill honed in his years of producing industrial diagrams and turned that into his new passion, crafting pen and ink drawings of every single artifact found at the field excavations, for both Narragansett as well as Massachusetts Archaeological Societies for several decades. His artwork is unmistakable and at least in my opinion, produces a far superior rendering of the actual artifact than does photography. Dr. Fowler is a shining example of the blaze of color in the final years!
There countless other examples in both the “well-known” world – such as Grandma Moses – and the lesser known world – such as Dr. Fowler. The point is, as Yogi Berra said: “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over”. Life continues until it exists no more. The trees, as magnificent as they are in their full and thick summer canopies, reveal so little about themselves until the final gasp in autumn as they burst forward in brilliant resplendence. Certainly, physically we are all less than we were in our later years; speed, agility, strength, and stamina have all faded. But that is not a loss, it actually becomes an enabler to release the more spiritual, and perhaps esoteric, fountains of creativity.
Do not limit yourself as time passes dear reader, do not go gently into the good night; find your inner passion and explore it, nourish it, and let it shine forth. Show your colors – it is never too late!!!
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