When I hear someone say fall is their favorite season, I feel a kinship. In my stereotype of the seasons, summer welcomes the athletic and beautiful and the outdoorsy. Fall, on the other hand, brings the bookish folk into their own. Though we now mark it with a profusion of Pumpkin Spice, to me fall is the most thoughtful season, where joy and loss come together in “the time between times.” I was born in the summer, but I feel most at home in the fall.
A few weeks ago, when the first signs of fall were just appearing here in Alabama, I was out in the country visiting a friend’s horse. It happened that I had recently read The Alchemist for my book club. While I did not love the book overall, one thing that stuck with me was the idea of following what the author calls your “Personal Legend.” You might also describe it as a calling or abiding passion. I’ve had a few passions over the years, some growing out of others, but my original obsession was with horses. In the most joyful childhood dream I can remember, I was about to train a horse of my own (no doubt influenced by multiple viewings of The Black Stallion). I took riding lessons sporadically and collected Breyers, but strangely enough I don’t remember asking for a real horse.
Horses faded into the background in my teens when I was obsessed with all things Lord of the Rings. Soon enough I went to college, and now ten years have gone by. But I look back and see a few connecting threads, among them Tolkien’s own love of horses reflected in the books and the films. England drew me largely with the Tolkien/Lewis connection, but sitting in an Oxford pub I met a young man who said one of his dreams was to ride horseback across Ireland. (I married him.) And last year, shortly after my father died, an old friend of my husband’s asked if we could look in on her horse over the summer.
When fall began a few weeks ago, I was visiting that same horse and had just turned him loose after a short ride. As he was wandering away under falling leaves, I was struck by a feeling I’ve had perhaps only once before. Anyone who has read Surprised By Joy knows something of it. I had the same sensation once on a walking tour in Oxford, an almost audible impression of I know you. You might call it a feeling of perfect harmony with your surroundings, that it is deeply right for you to be in that place at that moment. For me, I sense the hand of God gathering all the scattered threads of my life and giving me the briefest glimpse of the tapestry He is creating.