Summer is Fading Away

On a Sunday morning in late August, sidewalk art caught my eye.  Even though it seemed a bit crazy to do, I stopped to take a photo of an image that provided me with a metaphoric representation of a message I have been unwilling to accept:  Summer is fading away.

The faded sidewalk art must have been so bright and colorful on the day that an unknown artist brightened up a bit of sidewalk by painting a sunflower.  I imagined the artist painting the flower in anticipation of an upcoming festival at the beginning of the summer.  Since that day, many feet have passed over the painted flower throughout the summer.  Its brightness has faded as the paint was slowly chipped way to leave only a faint rendering of the original image.  

Artists do not paint on sidewalks if they wish the art they are making to last long.   As I age, I find that like temporary sidewalk art, I am very aware that summer seems to be the most fleeting of all the seasons.  It is also the season I most wish to extend.  I wish to deny that another summer is ending which means that the days ahead will be less full of sunshine, flowers, and warmth.   

Flowers can't bloom forever.  For everything there is a season.  I can't deny that truth.  I am grateful for each season of the year.  Each is needed in the cycle of life where I live.  I would not want to live where I wouldn't be able to enjoy the changes that each season brings.   I am also grateful for each season of life, but as I age, I find myself asking myself how many more summers I will have where I will be able to do all those things that make summer so special.  

Summer ~ A Time to Be Outdoors

I live at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.  My walks, while healthy for my body, are even more beneficial for mental health.  

In the evening, as the sun begins to set, I see some spectacular sights. Ending a day gazing at a sky filled with light and shadow reminds me that while I might have experienced both light and shadow throughout the day, it is the light that not shine through but also lifts my eyes upward.  Light pierces the darkness as the day ends, and my soul finds peace as I reflect up the message of hope that shines brightly before my very eyes. 

Each day I look for opportunities for finding the silver lining behind every dark cloud.  We just have look for those silver linings.  I've found that I usually can find them in every situation.

I share my daytime walks with the many wildlife creatures that live near my home.  I never know what creature I may encounter along the way.  Can you see a doe poking her head between these walls and houses as she searches for food or shelter?

As I got closer to this sweet little doe, she seemed so small and vulnerable as she stood behind some bushes.  I noted her skinny little legs and inquired as to her health.  She just watched me with her soft doe eyes as I passed by without making any comment or movement.  I do hope she is well.

As much as I fret and fume over the damage the deer do, I also feel so much compassion for these beautiful creatures who find themselves living in an urban setting which is really not healthy for them.  

Summer ~ A Time for Creativity 

As with every summer, I began this summer with high hopes for the small garden plots I worked to create around the perimeters of my house.  The grasshoppers, the slugs, the rabbits, and the deer all have feasted on my plantings.  Needless to say, my impossible garden did not live up to my expectations, nor did I see my dreams of flower blooming around my house realized. I did manage to get one bouquet from the delphiniums I planted before the bucks showed up and ate the plants down to the ground.  These blooms represent a victory of sorts and my determination that I will grow flowers in this environment that seems to be set against me doing so.  
Many evenings and afternoons were spent on the back deck writing in my journal or reading.  I love summer evenings spent in the quiet solitude provided by my back deck.  

Summer ~ A Time To Enjoy My Man & My Dog

I do think dogs enrich our lives so much.  This special companion is so loved by us both, but there is no denying that Boston is Jim's special boy.  We love taking him for walks.  We are all three getting older, and sadly Boston has developed a limp due to hip dysplasia.  The vet says he must lose some weight.  Hmmmm.   The doctor told us the same thing, so we all three must keep up the walks and start limiting the food.  

Summer ~ A Time for Limited Structure to Schedules

In summer, I find I return to the types of schedules I liked to keep when I was teaching and summer vacation finally rolled around. I like to read fluffy novels that keep me up late at night.  I love going to bed late.  I like sleeping with the windows open so I can feel the cool mountain breeze flow down through the valley where we live and through our bedroom as we sleep.  I love being awakened by the chimes from Mount St. Francis a mile from my home.  I love not having a strict schedule.  I have purposed having a healing, relaxing, and mostly stress free summer.  

I accomplished that by spending a lot of time right here on my very own front patio.  

Summers spent with those you love most in settings that bring joy and peace are the very best kinds of summer to have.

How was your summer?  What did you do this summer?


(dih-sij-oo-uh s)


  1. shedding the leaves annually, as certain trees and shrubs
  2. falling off or shed at a particular season, stage of growth, etc. as leaves, horns, or teeth
  3. no permanent; transitory

Deciduous, this word of the day from popped up my inbox on the first day of autumn.  The word, one learned in biology when students are introduced to the classification system, was certainly not a new one to me, yet the word took hold in my brain as if it were a negative concept with which I did not wish to consider.  

The word deciduous on the surface was certainly an appropriate word given the season.  As an adjective, it describes well what happens in fall:  deciduous trees and shrubs shed leaves.

That “word of the day” from the first day of autumn would not leave me alone.  Soon I was beginning to feel like a professor had assigned me this word as topic for a writing exercise.  Instead of sitting down and writing,  I let other tasks and interests shove the writing chore to the side.  I began to feel as if I had this large and long neglected writing assignment hanging over my head for weeks upon weeks.  

We are now well into autumn.  I am just now writing about that which I have been thinking for weeks. 

There is possibly no season more glorious than autumn. At the beginning of the season, the word deciduous evokes an entirely different response than it does at towards the end of season. 
In Colorado during the first days of autumn the newspapers will often have a headline that reads, There Is Gold in Those Hills.  

Maroon Bells
Near Aspen, Colorado
Fall 2015
Photographers head to the hills seeking a different golden reward than those long ago  prospectors who first settled in Colorado sought.  On those weekend when the leaves are at their peak in color, the mountain highways turn into urban like traffic jams.  Such ephemeral beauty is short lived.  

Nature dictates that each leaf on each deciduous tree will change from green to gold, red, or orange.  The aspen tree, robed in brilliant gold in the mountains of Colorado, demands our attention even as she knows she dare not boast of her fugacious attire because in no time, her frock has fallen to the ground.

The shedding of each leaf only adds to the beauty that a clump of deciduous trees creates.

I ponder the fleeting beauty that the first days of autumn brings.
Perhaps it is my age that causes me to think, “all of this will be over in a heartbeat."
When one reaches the autumn of life, the change that autumn brings brings new meaning.
One cannot help but draw an analogy of the evanescent aspect of the season of autumn to one’s own life when reaches the eighth decade of living.

In autumn memories of spring when one wore frocks of green are beginning to fade.  One looks about and sees others around them also robed in glorious colors and says to oneself, “I think I love the autumn of my life best of all.”  There seems to be even more vibrancy in this season. One almost forgets that such days are fleeting, temporary, transitory.  

One becomes most aware of the deeper meanings of deciduous in autumn.  

The outward appearance of deciduous trees may appear different in each season, 
but a deciduous tree is always 
a deciduous tree remains deciduous.  
Only its appearance changes.

The transition to these later days of the autumn of my life have been days when I’ve found myself shedding much of what I thought defined myself and my life. 

At the end of this past summer, I received an email  from a person I did not know asking me if I would be interested in working as a mentor/coach for both inservice and preservice teachers participating in training that would be funded by  a grant which had been awarded to the  University in the town where I live.  The person who sent the email introduced herself,  told me a bit about the position, and stated that I had been recommended for the position by several of her colleagues at the University.  All of these professors whom had recommended me were dear personal and professional friends of mine.  I wrote back and asked if we could meet to discuss the specifics of the position:  time expectations, responsibilities, the wage, etc.

A few days later I had the opportunity to meet the one whom had sought me out for the position.  She was joined by the principal investigator for the grant project for which I was being recruited.  Immediately, I was drawn to the scope of the work that would take place because the University had been awarded this grant.  I was drawn to the tasks I would be assigned.  The work I would do would be exactly what I once loved best to do:  working with teachers involved in teaching English as A Second Language.  I was drawn to the two intelligent and personable women with whom I was meeting and with whom I would work.  I wanted to work with them.  I wanted to do the work,  but I knew I needed to fully understand the scope of the position before I let my emotions say, “YES.”

They said the position was for twenty (20) hours a week, or a half- FTE (full-time equivalency).  I have worked at the University level enough to know that 20 hours would really mean that I would put in no fewer than thirty hours a week.  I also knew that I would have to develop lesson plans and a schedule that would work for myself and those I would be teaching, coaching, and mentoring.  As I sipped my Starbucks drink, and spoke with these wonderful professionals, I kept telling myself to not jump in with both feet.  I reminded myself not to forget that I was no longer in the summer of life.  

I left the meeting excited about the opportunity, so excited.  I tried to ignore the reality of the scope of the position.  I reminded myself that they even offered me ten (10) hours a week if that would work best for me.  

As I left the Starbucks where I had learned the specifics of a possible new opportunity,  the skies over the mountains turned black.  I watched heavy storm clouds begin to blow into the valley where I live.  Soon, a thick veil of rain and hail hid the clouds that had descended down the mountainside and into the valley.  I knew better that to drive into that storm.  I knew better than to even begin to enter the mouth of the valley because soon the road that led to my home would become a raging river.  I drove to the top of a bluff and sought shelter in a REI store.

As I shopped, I kept weighing the benefits of taking this job, all the time knowing I didn’t really want to work that many hours.  Yet, I wanted to feel productive again.  I wanted and needed professional and personal exchanges.  I missed that part of my life.  Deep in thought, I wondered through the store while the storm raged outside.  Hail was pounding the roof.  Then I heard, “Hi Sally.”  I turned to see Leanna standing there.  Leanna was one of my daughter Julie’s best friends from high school.  She has been such a faithful friend to our family since we lost Julie seven years ago.  “What are you doing these days?” she asked.

I spilled out my story about the job offer.  I told her how conflicted I was.  “Twenty hours are a lot of hours,” she said.  She even added that she was working that many hours in a demanding job and it was a lot.  I knew she was right.  I knew she had given me the answer I needed to hear.  

I told her how Julie used to ask, “Mom, when are you really going to retire?”  Julie wanted me to retire and enjoy life.  It was as if Julie had sent Leanna to me.  Leanna said, “I’m running the biggest race of my life tomorrow.  Julie has been on my mind.  I think of her everyday when I run.  She is the one who got me into running again.  I think she put you in my path today as I worry about the weather and the run.”  I think we both had tears in our eyes as we hugged and went our separate ways.  I know I did.  Those chance meetings can be just what we need somedays.  

I had such great clarity after I talked to Leanna.  All she had to say was, “Twenty hours is a lot.”  She is thirty years younger than I and in fantastic shape, yet she knows the toll that must be paid when one works twenty hours on a professional job  that requites a great deal of preparation and emotional and physical strength.  At this time in life, in this season, I did not wish to pay the price that I would have to pay to do a job I once loved and still greatly missed.
I was able to let that which no longer fit in this season of my life fall away.  


I’ve been doing a lot of sorting these days.  I've sorted through that which no longer fits for where I now am in life.  I have let much that I once treasured, but which I no longer have to hang on to,  fall away.  I am remembering with great joy those golden days that were before these days that signal that autumn has reached the midway point, but those days no longer define me nor do they constrict the days I now live.


Most of the leaves have now fallen from the trees near my home.  Some were hit with frost and snow early in the season, and so those trees, the beautiful maple trees outside my window,  did not wear on their usual showy red colors for long.  

The oak leaves have fallen and are now dry and brittle.  I see heaps of dry, crumbling brown leaves in the gutters of the street.  The wind catches them and blows them under bushes, or under porches.  It seems those gloriously colored leaves have been forgotten and reached a rather ignominious end.  

The shedding of that which is no longer needed by the tree in autumn does not attenuate the value of the tree or of the leaves which have been shed.  A deciduous tree sheds its leaves because that is what deciduous trees do.  As one ages, one also begins to shed that which no longer fits in the season of life where one now resides.  

The brittle, dry leaves are not useless.  They have a purpose.  They serve as mulch.  They protect the roots on the trees and other plants during winter.  They release nutrients back into the earth.  Nothing is lost.  These leaves are important for the life and growth of the tree even as they are shed and seem to be cast aside.

I’m learning that as I let that which is no longer needed to fall away, I too feel as if the roots at the core of my life feel protected, insulated, and nurtured.  I am honoring the season of life where I now live by recognizing the need for times when I need rest and restoration.  I have been trying to do that which feeds my soul and soothes my body as autumn comes to an end.  

It is good to recognize the seasons of life and embrace the lessons that each season brings.  Seasons are not permanent states.  All of nature changes with the seasons.  Seasons are transitory.  What was true of one’s life in one season is no longer true in another.  One cannot grow if one hangs on to that which identified a season that has now passed.  A deciduous tree cannot insist in fall to wear only green, nor can the leaves refuse to fall.  A deciduous tree is beautiful in any season.  A deciduous tree honors the seasons by changing as the season dictates.

There is great comfort in living in this season where I am able to allow that which is no longer needed to fall away.  

*Sometimes a word study evolves into a written piece.  I think about the meaning of a certain word.  I look at the synonyms and antonyms.  I keep lists of words that work with the word I have have been pondering.  English teachers play these crazy games with words for entertainment.  (I even like to diagram sentences.)  This post was written using words that were a part of my word study for the word deciduous.  It also is a post that sums up what has been going on in my life recently.  I’ve been sorting through that which is important in my life and allowing that which is no longer important to fall away.  

Reflections on Autumn

Now in my seventies, with a great deal of optimism, I acknowledge that I am hopefully approaching the mid to early late part (is there such a thing?) of the autumn of my life.  No one knows the length of one's days on this earth, but since longevity seems to be in my genes, I'm hoping I am not approaching the winter of my life soon.

I also acknowledge that change in this stage of life is not always easily accepted by me.  For some reason, my resistance to change is especially marked by the changing of the seasons.  Do any of you whom find yourselves in the same stage of life where I find myself find you feel the same way about change?  That is a long sentence.  More succinctly, do you resist change?

The change  from summer to autumn was especially difficult for me this year.  I fought accepting that change was coming.  I saw the signs of the coming drastic changes in weather in the reports from the high country.  It was snowing in the mountains in September.  Having spent my late teens living in the mountains of Colorado, I certainly was not surprised by snow flurries before the autumnal equinox.  "I've seen it snow on the Fourth of July in mountains," I say to myself and others.  Knowing the facts of life about weather when one lives in Colorado does not mean that one always accepts those facts as something to embrace.  This year, I wanted to see an extended summer.  Even though I love autumn, I did not wish to see her approach because I didn't want winter to arrive on her heels.

Resisting the arrival of autumn  made no sense in many ways because I love autumn as much as I love guacamole.  That means that I love autumn a lot.  Almost more than I love any other time of the year, I love the season we sometimes call fall.  Comparing my love for fall with my love for guacamole is probably an analogy you have not seen before.  In fact, you may be scratching your head and asking, "Where IS she going with this?"  Hint:  I am also making a comparison to aging when I think of guacamole and autumn.  For the answer, please allow me to  tell you a little story to illustrate why I am comparing guacamole and autumn and aging.   I wish I'd had the original idea for this analogy, but alas, I did not.  My dear friend high school friend IC deserves the credit.

Recently, even though she is mostly retired,  IC accepted a rather intense and demanding job.  It was a job that would not last more than a year, but it meant that the days and the nights while she was working would be dedicated to accomplishing the task she had accepted.  As she told me about her decision to take the job, she used what I thought was a brilliant observation.  She said,

Working at this stage in life is a lot like guacamole.

I said,
How's that?

She said,
Guacamole is a delicious mix of just the right ingredients,
but it has a short shelf life.

I've thought about her analogy so often since she shared it with me.  I thought of how true it is that as we enter of autumn of life, if we have been blessed to still have all of out mental capabilities,  we retain all of the skills that we developed over the years of our professional lives.  Those "right ingredients" are not only in place, but we also know the recipe of how to take those ingredients and successfully turn them into a something we feel confident about serving to others.

When we were younger, did any of us now in the autumn of life ever think about the length of shelf life that we had for any of our skills? Did we ever give a thought to the short window of time we would have to serve up our best assets?  Even if we have taken the very best care of ourselves by eating right and exercising daily, did we consider the short life that our physical abilities and strengths would have?  Did we know how fleeting the days of our productivity would be before the age of retirement suddenly came upon us?  Even though many of us are engaged in working, or in being productive by volunteering, I think most of us in the same season of life where I find myself can agree that since we are now in the autumn of life, we are very much like guacamole.  We have great value, but our shelf life is short.

As I ponder these thoughts, I realize that I must not ignore the perishable aspects of life while they can still be enjoyed.  No one enjoys guacamole when it has turned from green to brown.  It truly does not last long, nor will autumn, nor will this time of life.

My fears that winter was on the heels of autumn were truly unfounded this year.  Just as the landscape has thrilled me with endless sightings of  tall gloriously clothed trees of orange, and red, and gold this year, so have I been enthralled to find that we have been given a long string of sunny and unseasonably warm days.  One truly can't predict how a season will really turn out.  Why do I spend my days fretting that days of snow, and wind, and cold weather are just around the corner?

I remind myself that though the season may signal a change that is coming, the change that I dread has not yet arrived.

While autumn does not seem capricious to me, she does announce her arrival by showing off her variegated nature.  I sense that she too is hanging on to summer just a bit when I see trees of green and gold.  She promises she will display more glory and beauty in the days ahead by edging some of  the leaves on a green and gold tree with shades of red and orange.

Autumn, you hold great interest.  You are not stuck in the season where you only wear green.  I like that about you.

Autumn, you choose so many hues of red, gold, and green to show just how much you love variety.

Robed in intense colors, the foliage of autumn calls us out of doors to capture her beauty.  Those seeking lessons from autumn learn from her golden glory against a blue sky  that such richness was not achieved overnight. It takes more than one season of the year to produce this memorable distinction.

Autumn teaches us that these golden days of great beauty do not last forever.

The irony and the lesson of autumn is that on the day she shows her most glory, she is also shedding that which has brought her the most accolade.  She gracefully lets go her golden beauty.


On a perfect autumn day, my husband and I took a walk with our dog.  We kept stopping to snap photos of the scenes along the way because everything just looked so beautiful.  Once home, we took the opportunity to sit outside on a new patio we built last year and enjoy the day for a bit longer.  It is good to be in this season of life, we remarked, as retirement has meant that we now have time to enjoy fall days out of doors rather than in a school building.

On that day, I wondered why I had resisted autumn's arrival earlier in the season.  It is a glorious season of the year, and a wonderful season of life.  While this time of life may, like guacamole, have a short shelf life, I'm learning to live in the moment and make the most of that moment.  As I'm learning to let go graciously of the glories of season before me,  I'm just as sure that I'm not finished with this season of life yet.  This season of life is different than one before it.  Different in many good ways.  There seems to be a long stretch of paths ahead for me which still hold great possibility and opportunity.

The Break is Over

No man needs a vacation so much as the person who has just had one.  ~Elbert Hubbard

I find I am really relating to this quote today.  After being away from home for over two weeks, I've spent the day adjusting to life back at the ranch (home).   Anyone who has been away from home for any length of time knows that it takes a while to adjust to the new time zone, unpack the suitcases, wash the dirty clothes, go through stacks of mail, and go through over 500 e-mails.  I am also way behind on reading the blogs I follow.  So, I spent the day easing back into real life.  I don't want to rush into anything too fast because then I will truly need another vacation!

Jim at our first bed and breakfast
Ithaca, New York

My husband and I spent the past few weeks touring much of New England.  We were a bit ahead of peak time for "leaf peeping" in Upstate New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire.  I am happy with our decision to go on our trip when we did.  It fit our schedule, and we saw autumn in her beginning stages without being caught up in the crowds.  We beat the tour buses!  While we were gone, we also spent some wonderful days in the Boston area with my youngest son and his family.

This trip was the first extended vacation we have taken since our nearly month long trip to Europe during the early spring of 2010.  As many of you may know, we had only been home two weeks from that trip when my youngest daughter took her life.  Since that time, I have been dealing with the shock and grief that came from this tragic loss.  I wondered if I could ever leave home for any extended length of time again.  

The good news is that I think this trip was extremely beneficial to me.  It was not an easy trip.  I was ill through much of it, but in the end, I felt healthy mentally, emotionally, and physically.  In fact, in many ways, I believe I turned a corner in my journey through grief while we were in new locales.  Being away from home, away from the place where I have attempted to come to grips the greatest shock and devastation of my life, seemed to help me put some of the shock of Julie's death behind me.  By this, I mean that for the first time since her death, I found that I was no longer floundering in disbelief.  

I needed to leave the past few seasons behind.  This past spring and summer have been very hard on me emotionally and physically.  I was dreading the change of another season even while I was very much in need to see this past summer put behind me.  The summer had been so hot, so dry, so hard on me.  I was ready for a change of climate.  My soul needed some replenishment.

Buttermilk Falls
Ithaca, New York
We began our journey in Ithaca, New York.  The damp, cool weather felt wonderful to me.  As we made our way from Ithaca to Cooperstown, somewhere in the Adirondack Mountains, I saw the first splash of fall colors in the landscape.  I asked my husband to stop so I could photograph the first display of fall flowers and pumpkins that I saw along the road.  

The colors of fall seemed to give my heart new life.  Grouped in a simple display next to this a large autumn gold barn, the yellow, red, pink, and rust colored mums were just garden variety potted plants that can be found in front of any grocery store this time of year, but somehow the colors blended together to form a memory of other autumns in my life. 

Fall is my favorite time of year.  I needed to love it again.  I needed to be introduced slowly to its beauty again so I could appreciate its glory.  Small dabs of eye popping splashes of color seemed to be just the right amount of contrast against the green shades of summer to awaken my love for a season I thought I would never fully enjoy again. I needed to be reminded that "for everything there is a season."  I needed to know that grief also has its seasons.  "There is a time for grief," but there is also   "...  a time for rejoicing."  I needed to learn that one's heart is not forever dead to the beauty of life and nature.  

I will remember these past few weeks as a time of healing for my heart.  I have a new appreciation for health, for friends, for the changing of the seasons, for family, and for my husband.  He has been so generous in the way he has provided wonderful opportunities and experiences for me.  He has spared no expense.  His patience has been beyond measure as I battled through illness throughout the trip.  We survived navigating new roads and routes through country we did not know.  

We had a break from everyday life and along the way found that we still had to deal with life and all that it throws at you.  One never knows what one will encounter on any journey, whether it is across country or through life.  This trip served as a reminder that I am blessed with a dear traveling companion.   For that,  I am extremely grateful. 
Near Stowe, Vermont
Jim & Sally 
in the autumn of their lives