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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Grandma's Autumn Colors

Air Date: Week of

Commentator Julia King reflects on the passing of her grandmother in the autumn. The colors of fall provide an opportunity to explore the eternal link of nature's continuous life cycle. Ms. King is a writer who lives in Goshen, Indiana and comes to us from the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.


CURWOOD: The passing of individuals is a somber time. For commentator Julia King, the passing of autumn is also a sad occasion. But it provides a chance to consider nature's cycle of life and death.

KING: Autumn is a good time to die. My friend speaks the words upon hearing that my 91-year-old grandmother got into bed one evening and simply failed to wake. I consider the red and golden leaves still clinging to the maples in my back yard. Is there a best time to die, I wonder? Winter, with its cold browns and grays is more analogous to death. And Spring with its leaves as fresh as lettuce is so full of consoling new life. But maybe my friend is right: autumn is special. Every year, 2 weeks after my daughter's birthday, the trees explode into glorious yellows and pinks. When she was born 5 years ago, I was sure the show was just for her; it seemed a good time to be born.

But as my family gathered to bury my grandmother under a blue sky and a rainbow of leaves, it did indeed seem a more apt time to die. At least for a 91-year-old. At least for a woman who had a lifetime of color behind her. There are pictures from the green of her youth: the carefree young flapper with a come-hither look. The laughing, splashing friends at a surreal black and white lake. They wear bathing caps and modest one-tone bathing suits. They lean on one another with casual intimacy, resting arms on shoulders and feet on legs. Later, the photos include children and dogs, sofas and family Christmas trees. Her mysterious youth turns into a more familiar middle age. And finally into the old woman who even after a major stroke never lost the light in her deep blue eyes.

When my grandmother was in her 80s, my sister once asked her if life had seemed long or short. Without hesitation, she gently snapped her fingers and said, "Definitely short." Like autumn, just as you fall madly in love with the bright new landscape, it's gone. Looking out a church window at an Indiana field of reds and rusty browns, my sisters and I laugh, remembering Grandmom's words from many autumns ago: "I have seen a lot of things in my life." My grandmother stood in the doorway wagging her finger at her 3 frolicsome granddaughters in the yard. "But I have never seen children playing in the leaves in their brand new coats." Goodbye, dear Grandmom. We will always remember your color.

(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: Julia King is a writer who lives in Goshen, Indiana. She comes to us from the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.



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