Category: Philosophy

The Extraordinary in the Ordinary


Recently, I went for a walk–wandering around the neighborhood–and when I came back, I took a look around the house and was struck by a few particular moments of the extraordinary, waiting to be discovered in the ordinary. Every year around this time, all of nature usually comes alive simultaneously, and it is always a relief to once again observe the greenery coming back to life, but this year, nature seems to be bursting out all over the yard, and it almost seems to be trying to swallow the house whole. The image above was taken in a field near the house which I snapped while walking, and it felt relatively safe and ordinary as I paused to capture the scene.

Once I came along the sidewalk in front of the house, I was taken by surprise by what seemed like a jungle creeping up on the house, with our cat, Mittens apparently oblivious to the impending attack. On the right hand side, next to the yellow rose bush, what I had earlier dismissed as simply a small new tree, has suddenly taken root and shot up like a beanstalk. The ivy in the center of the image, which had always seemed like a nice decoration around the light pole at the end of the walkway, now appears to have engulphed the whole thing. Yes, there is a light post under all those leaves.


Honeysuckle has completely obscured the rhododendron bushes on the left side, and while that tangled mess has a lovely scent, you almost can’t even tell there is a bush alive under all that.

It won’t be long before the mailman will have to bring a machete with him to get to the mailbox!

The ivy is starting to take over the whole front of the house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s even creeping up to grab anyone coming out the door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s getting a bit ridiculous now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But lo and behold! Sitting out on the back porch I notice that a maple seedling from the backyard tree has taken root in the space between the boards. In the most unexpected places, and against tremendous odds, nature has found a way to flourish! Even though it’s clearly doomed in the long run, I couldn’t help but stare in amazement at how persistent and unflinchingly the plants and trees and everything alive is growing all around me.

The natural world, of which we are an integral part, shows us even in these humble discoveries on an ordinary day, how it is that we can approach life as something extraordinary, which needs to be appreciated and which should provoke us with wonder and inspire awe. Imperceptibly, but relentlessly, every plant and tree persists under the most daunting circumstances. We cut it out, and it grows back. We rip it out by the roots, and the seedlings drop and the process begins again. Every year, with lethal intent, I decimate the ivy and chop it to bits, and no matter what I do, life finds a way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apparently unfazed by it all, our cat, Princess, seems blissfully unaware of the tumultuous orchestration of Mother Nature all around her, and found a quiet spot on an old carpet remnant to curl up for an afternoon nap.  As the mammal with the big brain and a penetrating cognitive awareness, I find myself curiously undone by all of these ordinary wonders, and equally cognizant of the extraordinary aspects which serve as the foundation for all life and existence in our little corner of the world.  Time to dig a little deeper…..

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A Little Parenthesis In Eternity

Paulo Coelho’s quote brings us to contemplate the very essence of what it means to be alive and what significance our lives may hold in the big picture. We cannot simply move through life oblivious to the deeper meaning that surely must exist at the foundation of our existence in the physical universe. The importance of our efforts in striving to discover what meaning there might be in our individual lives is really just a momentary “parenthesis in eternity,” but when we arrive at a place and time where we may actually begin to see how this meaning becomes real for us as individuals, it points to a much broader meaning which applies to all life and all existence.

Recent travels have inspired some serious contemplation of Coelho’s thoughts and while the natural landscape of Virginia is available to anyone with the means and the will to travel there, for me as an individual, this image holds a deeper meaning and has sparked many ideas that point to a broader meaning. I am hopeful in the months to come that I will be able to share more completely how this came about, as I am preparing to retire in a few weeks. So much has been quietly and patiently been waiting for me to arrive in a place and time where this will become real for me, and I am looking forward to dedicating much more time to this pursuit of discovery and sharing with all my readers here.

There is a deeper meaning to life that has been apparent to me for some time now, in spite of all the obstacles to spending time discovering it and sharing it with the world. As a father to six wonderful children, I have had a front row seat for life’s ups and downs, and have relished every moment of sharing this life with them, but when your own children start having children, the discoveries are increased exponentially. Holding two of my seven grandchildren in this image reveals a small window into how it is that being with any of them always fills my heart with a sense of a deeper meaning that is totally real. It’s not just biology and it’s not just because my granddaughters are wonderful. This is a precious moment.

All of the efforts over the past seven years to speak to the subjective experience of human consciousness have given my life a degree of meaning, and the paths I have pursued in the search for discoveries that hold meaning for me all point to the truth contained in the quote from Stan Grof, a psychiatrist who spent many years researching non-ordinary states of consciousness. With so much yet to be discovered, it is my hope that our continued dialog and sharing of ideas will bear fruit that helps others see this deeper meaning.

Hope to share much more in the days and weeks to come…..John H.

Countryside Contemplation

View from Blue Ridge Parkway in southwestern Virginia

There are few experiences for frequent highway travelers that can compare with the exceptional countryside road views available along the highways within the Blue Ridge Mountain range, which stretches from northern Georgia all the way up to Pennsylvania.

Recent camping trips have resulted in several wonderful opportunities for both sustained hours of contemplation, and for producing some remarkable images along the variety of roads and some lovely trails leading through the scenic areas surrounding the campgrounds in Virginia. As a consequence of being able to enjoy these opportunities, a number of avenues of exploration have opened for me, and in the coming weeks I hope to share postings which will include the fruits of those opportunities, both in the visual sense through photo essays, as well as in a spiritual and philosophical sense through the expression of my contemplative efforts and recorded thoughts from the numerous visits to the various natural landscapes in these areas.

Traversing the countryside in a motor vehicle is one of the best ways to get a broad appreciation of the scope of natural beauty and wide expanses available to visit, and frequently you can encounter alternative and unfamiliar points of interest which you can either stop and explore immediately, or perhaps make a note to schedule a visit at a later time. Sometimes, while on the way to a planned stop, pausing to take in a scenic overlook can provide a wonderful opportunity to be inspired and to appreciate the advantage of serendipity for sharing in nature’s bounty.

By far, some of the most beneficial and inspiring scenes are more often attainable by stepping out of the vehicle, and hiking along the trails and visiting the many visitor centers which can provide helpful information about the most interesting sites contained within the state and national park system. Trails can vary from leisurely and easy walks through tried and true paths for the casual visitor, all the way to some of the more challenging hikes through rugged terrain.

One of my more recent trips into nature’s gardens provided an especially fruitful time in contemplation, and included the chance to review a volume of philosophical writings by Descartes received as a gift from my brother at Christmas. Safely nestled in the bosom of the Blue Ridge Mountains, I encountered a passage that seemed to be describing the very path of my life:

“As soon as I was old enough to emerge from the control of my teachers, I entirely abandoned the study of letters. Resolving to seek no knowledge other than that which could be found in myself or else in the great book of the world, I spent the rest of my youth travelling, visiting courts and armies, mixing with people of diverse temperaments and ranks, gathering various experiences, testing myself in the situations which fortune offered me, and at all times reflecting upon whatever came my way so as to derive some profit from it…”

“…For it seemed to me that much more truth could be found in the reasonings which a man makes concerning matters that concern him than in those which some scholar makes in his study about speculative matters. For the consequences of the former will soon punish the man if he judges wrongly, whereas the latter have no practical consequences and no importance for the scholar except that perhaps the further they are from common sense the more pride he will take in them, since he will have had to use so much more skill and ingenuity in trying to render them plausible. And it is always my most earnest desire to learn to distinguish the true from the false in order to see clearly into my own actions and proceed with confidence in this life.”

–from “Discourse On The Method,” by Rene Descartes, published in 1644

In the weeks to come, I will be enlarging and expanding on the clear association between communing with nature apart from most all familiar modern amenities, (with the exception of the devices for photography and recording my thoughts for posterity) with the emergence of important life lessons, philosophical writings, and a greater well-being as an individual struggling with the meaning and purpose of his remaining years on this earth.

In a recent communication with a dear friend, I reported a brief defense of this association in this way:

“You can almost hear your heart beating in the stillness of early morning in the forest. There is a reflection of life across the still lake waters at dawn. It is humbling and life-affirming to look out at beautiful mountain vistas. All of nature reflects all of life…”

“And don’t forget to unplug your earbuds or headphones and to walk without any sound except what nature provides, and look within. There is more wisdom available in one hour of stillness in Nature’s gardens, than you could ever hope to find…(elsewhere)”

…more to come…

Surest Signs of Spring

Yearning for the renewal of all life at the onset of Spring, especially after enduring the bitter cold nights and frigid daytime temperatures of Winter, is a common theme this time of year and my own yearnings in this regard are fairly predictable as the Earth begins its return to an orientation, which grants the northern hemisphere greater access to the warmth of the sun.

This morning, as I sleepily trudged my way out to the kitchen, I was struck by one of the surest signs of Spring to which I have become accustomed throughout the almost thirty years of occupancy in my humble home, when the sun finally had the opportunity to shine through the kitchen window well enough to illuminate the area around the coffee pot.

The timing couldn’t have been better from my perspective, as I approached the kitchen window and opened the blinds. My heart filled with a reassuring rush of warmth, and my spirit lifted immediately upon the discovery of the pattern of the sun’s rays lighting up the counter near the coffee pot, as it does only when the tilt of the Earth heralds the arrival of the Spring season.

After pouring myself the first cup of the day, and just savoring the moment which included the delightful coffee aroma, the wisps of steam floating up into the sunbeams, and the anticipation of the calm and quiet of an early morning ritual on the weekend, my thoughts turned right away to what other signs might be available for observation. I stepped out the front door to retrieve the newspaper and was again reassured to see the very beginnings of blossoming flowers at my feet in front of the house.

It won’t be long before the budding plants start to sprout in the flower beds out front, and the daffodils, which did not appear to flower last year, appeared to be struggling to maintain their composure with temperatures in the upper thirties most of the morning.

The predicament of the harbingers of Spring clearly echoed my own uncertainty as I contemplated the changes which are about to take place in my own life, as well as the challenges which are looming for the immediate future. As lovely and reassuring as the walk around the yard proved to be in the brilliant sunlight and among the many hopeful signs of Spring, it was chilly enough to chase me back inside to consider my thoughts in a more comfortable setting.

This June I will be retiring from my position which has employed me for the last seven years, hopefully preparing for a new routine which does not include going to a job outside my home, and entering a new chapter in the continuing saga which is my life. All of the transitions which accompany these changes have inspired both anticipation and anxiety to different degrees, but they are both necessary and expected as are the change of seasons each year.

As I turned to continue with my chores for the day, a glance backward caught my eye as a kind of hopeful sign, captured in the image above. The brilliance of the sunlight streaming through the windows as it only does in the Spring, illuminated the greenery of my favorite houseplant, which has been waiting patiently to return to its perch outdoors. I could almost feel the joy it might be experiencing as only a plant can, of the promise of warmer days ahead, and a chance to begin again in the renewal of all life, as the Earth welcomes the surest signs of Spring.

The Spirit of Jefferson’s Monticello

One of the numerous highlights of 2017 for me, which also included several monumental family gatherings, was a long-awaited visit to Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. After a whirlwind weekend of activity surrounding the wedding ceremony of my youngest daughter, the opportunity to see this historic home, which I had dreamed of since I was a young boy in grammar school, suddenly became available, prompting me to investigate the options for tours on their website, “https://www.monticello.org/

It didn’t take long to decide to take what they called the “Behind the Scenes Tour,” which included, according to the description, a tour “…through the first floor of Monticello and up the narrow staircase to explore the private quarters on the second and third floors, including the iconic Dome Room.” Although it was a bit expensive as museum ticket prices go, I felt like I wanted to see as much as possible, since it might be my only opportunity to take such a tour.

Since photography was prohibited in many of the areas within the home, where I was unable to make my own images, I have notated the sources for the images provided.

Upon arrival, I joined a handful of other enthusiasts along a path in front of the East Front main entrance for a brief introduction to the rules governing what was expected regarding visitor behavior–not touching anything on display, not sitting in any of the chairs except where designated, no photography was permitted in certain areas, and reminders about how challenging the stairs might be for anyone not accustomed to such climbing. Once the introduction was complete, we were led to the main entrance where our guide was waiting to greet us.

After a brief conversation waiting for a previous tour to conclude, we were led into the Grand Entrance Hall, where Jefferson was said to initially greet important visitors to the estate:


Courtesy of Thomas Jefferson Foundation–Photo by Robert Lautman

The feeling of standing in this enormous and storied hall gave me a clear sense of just how significant this home must have been even to the original visitors in the early 1800’s when Jefferson lived in the home. Many of the artifacts are those which were originally on display at one time or another, and I could feel the anticipation building to see more.

It took a total of forty years to complete what would become the permanent residence for Jefferson in Monticello, and although he took an active role in its construction throughout that time, he had always intended it to be the place where he would live out the remainder of his days, once his public life had concluded. During his tenure as President, from 1801 to 1809, he directed the tasks to complete Monticello from Washington, D.C., and the home itself was mostly completed when he arrived there in 1809.


© Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello

Standing in the hallway leading up to the library room, preparing to move forward on the tour, I was momentarily overtaken by a keen sense of standing in a place where Jefferson himself surely had stood innumerable times, and looking ahead into that room, I felt myself drifting into an almost hypnotic state, almost expecting to see him turn the corner to greet us. From this point on, at various times throughout the tour, I couldn’t shake the sense of intercepting and sharing momentary flashes of a presence of spirit in several of the areas of the home, pressing me to stay back at times behind the group, in order to linger and absorb this sense of spirit.


© Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello

During his lifetime, Jefferson had accumulated some 6,000 volumes in his personal library, and our guide reported that after the British burned many of the buildings in the city of Washington during their occupation in 1814, including the Library of Congress, Jefferson donated a large portion of his own personal collection to help America’s Library to recover from that disaster.

© Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello

Throughout our tour of the upper floors, I continued to be struck periodically by how potent the sense of presence persisted in certain rooms, and the expert commentary provided by our guide, combined with the authentic and thoroughly researched artifacts which were present in each area, only enhanced this sense within me. Once we reached the very top of the house, in what was called the “Dome Room,” we were once again allowed to take photos, and the story surrounding the dome, which was added in 1800, brought us back to earth. Its original purpose was apparently never fully realized, as a kind of gathering place or receiving area for visiting dignitaries, and ended up being mostly used for additional storage according to the records obtained by the foundation.

The payoff came when we were directed to a set of double doors leading out to what should have been the West Front outside terrace, but instead revealed a secret room, apparently taken over by the grandchildren who lived in the house as a kind of getaway from what was very likely a fairly busy household.

Once the main tour had concluded, we were led to an adjoining room across from the Dome Room, where we sat and began a wonderful opportunity to discuss what we had seen, and to ask questions regarding anything we were still curious about. At the prompting of our expert guide, we began an initial conversation about the people who built Monticello, who were referred to in all the literature as “enslaved people.”

Obviously, the implication was controversial as it seemed an attempt to minimize the very difficult fact that slaves were employed in nearly every aspect of both the construction and the maintaining of the plantation. While the existence of slavery was a fact of life in those years leading up to Jefferson’s writing of the Declaration of Independence, and while the treatment of those individuals was, by most accounts, much less harsh than it was elsewhere in America at that time, there was no escaping the reality that these individuals were considered property, and that Jefferson struggled broadly with this reality, without taking any concrete steps to change the arrangement.

His relationship with Sally Hemmings, with whom scholars have verified that he fathered six children, didn’t come fully into the light for many years after his death in 1826. Today, we know a great deal more about this side of the Jefferson legacy, and the periodic reunions which take place at Monticello, now include all of the descendants of both Jefferson and Hemmings.

Taking a long walk around the grounds after the main tour permitted some additional views of the quarters for the workers and slaves, the original kitchen, and storage areas common to plantations at that time, but obviously on a grand scale due to the size of the estate, which originally was spread out over 5,000 acres, covering about eight square miles. One of my favorite points of interest was a huge tree along the gardens in the West Front area, which very likely existed when Jefferson walked those paths.

While we know so much more now about this controversial figure from American history, the fascination contained in any study of all of his accomplishments and contradictions seems never to diminish while standing in this architectural marvel or walking on the grounds just as Jefferson no doubt did many times during his tenure at Monticello. When Jefferson died in 1826, he was deep in debt, in today’s equivalent of several million dollars, and everything in the house and the property itself were auctioned off to pay his debtors. For some years afterwards, the house fell into disrepair and was nearly lost to history, but for the efforts of Uriah Levy, a Commodore in the U.S. Navy, who purchased the house and several hundred acres surrounding it in 1834. When Uriah passed away in 1862, the preservation efforts fell to his nephew, Jefferson Monroe Levy who took over in 1879, who restored many of the features of the home. In 1923, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation purchased the property from Levy and began years of restoring and purchasing of neighboring property and original artifacts, and has handled the care and preservation of Monticello ever since.

The memory I now carry with me of a sense of the Spirit of Jefferson’s Monticello, may largely be a part of my lifelong interest in stepping through the door, and the realization as a grown man that my childhood dream of standing in that house had finally come to fruition. The experience itself affected me profoundly, while still educating me in the ways which the flawed and very human Jefferson didn’t always keep in step with his words and declarations. The same might be said of any one of us, and while I found these revelations sobering at times, I still experienced a sense of awe as I walked the halls and staircases of Monticello.

 

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

As 2017 winds down and 2018 approaches, I would like to extend my personal, heartfelt “Season’s Greetings” to all of my readers and visitors here at John’s Consciousness, and to express my gratitude for the many thoughtful comments and communications from visitors all across the globe. It has been a turbulent and challenging year for many people in all parts of the world, and in spite of what must seem like a particularly daunting year for many of us in the United States and elsewhere, I still feel strongly that with the right emphasis, we can move forward into the future with hope for all of humanity.

Recognizing that there are still many areas in the world where the conditions and circumstances of everyday people are more challenging than my own, as someone who has persistently pursued the topic of the nature of subjective experience, I set myself to the task recently of composing a theatrical scene that would address questions surrounding the sometimes challenging circumstances for individuals, and at the same time, speak to the important matter of the spiritual component that I feel certain belongs in any discussion of human consciousness.

As we gathered this year at our annual family Christmas celebration, preparations were made to perform this scene for what is always the rousing and chaotic audience who is my extended family. As a former student of the theater in my youth, I trained as an actor at Temple University in Philadelphia, and had a fair amount of success in those endeavors. While I ultimately chose to concentrate on English literature in my subsequent studies, I never lost interest in all things theatrical.

I had the great good fortune to be joined in this effort by my beautiful and talented niece, Laura, who graciously agreed to perform the scene with me on very short notice. A recent graduate of the University for the Performing Arts in New York, I felt sure she would enjoy the challenge of performing before such a familiar audience. I sent her the material I had prepared with notes on how we might improvise during the impromptu interactions, along with a basic foundational script to support the performance. I was additionally blessed by the assistance of several family members in arranging for lighting and sound support, and in acquiring props that enhanced the production.

Throughout the preparation phase, I was astonished to find that I began to have many of the same emotions and anxieties as those which always overtook me when performing years ago. It was as though the neural pathways which contained those memories were suddenly lit up…well…like a Christmas tree! Last minute instructions to our hosts for the evening yielded yet another level of cooperation and help that proved invaluable as the lights dimmed and the performance began.

The scene opens with my character, Grandpa, sitting in a wheelchair, talking to himself as he awaits the arrival of his granddaughter. The theme throughout emphasizes how the human spirit can provide a true basis for hope, but also how that same spirit can move us to continue in the face of adversity. It takes place some fifteen years in the future, where my character is in his eighties and partially disabled. He’s doing alright but is becoming increasingly frail, and dependent on his family for his regular care. As the scene unfolds, he secretly contemplates his own mortality, but with the spirit of a hopeful soul. The thoughts that run through his mind are not carefree, but clearly tempered by longevity and a lifetime of loving.

Here is an excerpt from the opening monologue:

“There are so many reasons for me to have hope for the future, however long it might be for me. In spite of the sometimes unceremonious departures from this life of others in the same neighborhood of age as mine, I have seen the brightness of spirit that filled many of the moments of their lives, and I am heartened beyond measure to have shared such a range of wonders with these bright spirits, that it begs the question for me, “What contribution have I made?” and “What might I still contribute in the days that remain?”

“My granddaughter will be here shortly for her annual Christmas visit and I want so much to share with her my appreciation for the joy she brings me throughout the year, but especially at this time in my life, when every morning is a gift, and every effort requires the presence of hope.”

The arrival of his granddaughter for her annual Christmas visit clearly improves his mood, and her bubbling and vivacious demeanor is a most welcome development anytime. Laura’s professional and heartfelt performance gave the scene a certain power and heft that inspired my own performance, and she surprised me several times with her improvised responses.

Laura responded well to my brief story about the sadness I felt being estranged from my only son, and encouraged me well to continue to hope, in spite of his years of total absence from my life.

At one point, caught up in the emotion of the moment, her acceptance of the invitation to perform together with her aging Uncle became a gift in itself, and it felt like it always did when I performed on a public stage.

Here is an excerpt from the closing monologue:

“I don’t know how much time I have left, but I do know who I am on the inside. I know what I feel. I know there are like spirits that surround me. And when I say they surround me, I know they may not be in close proximity. They may be far away or years removed from me, but the spirit knows no boundaries. No matter where they reside, they are still with me…or within me.

When I’m alone, looking back over the years, I can still hear the beautiful song of hope that played in my head as a child. It was like a siren song, but I still believed in it. I believed in it because I could sense that it was not a song that would lead to destruction, but one that was calling me to my task. That beautiful voice gave me hope.

Now that I look back on it, I know that it was not just one voice. I know that each time I heard it, I recognized the spirit who dwelled within it. Perhaps, it may have been the voice of my as yet unborn grandchild, or maybe a voice from the future or from an ancient past. But when I heard that voice, I knew that essence.

In unguarded moments, in the silence between words, in moments of quiet contemplation, I know that it is a part of me, telling me to move forward with hope.”

Just as it appears that another Christmas will pass with no word from my son, the knock at the door, which I expected would be from my caretaker daughter, turns out to be from my son, who enters with a familiar greeting that ends the scene, as I gasp, “…My son!”

The whole experience was extraordinary from start to finish, and the rewards were almost entirely spiritual, although the curtain call at the end was also quite wonderful!

May the New Year bring all of humanity an improvement in their circumstances, and to each and every one of my readers and visitors here, many new reasons to look with hope to the future.

Warmest regards…..John H.

Auguries of Autumn

November has flown by with a swiftness of a fleeting blink of an eye. The autumn this year was reluctant to begin, with summer-like temperatures holding fairly steady well into October in the Northeast corridor, and the delay in arriving at more seasonal weather seemed to mute the changing colors when they finally began to change in earnest. As I came slowly to consciousness this past Saturday morning, I awoke to the sound of a robust and formidable wind stirring the trees outside my bedroom window. Since I had no urgent events scheduled for the day, I was able to awaken slowly and reflect for a bit before rising.

I sat up for a moment or two once I had gathered my wits and took a few photos as the day began, and then settled back down again to contemplate the day’s beginning and the events of late that accompanied the strangeness of the reluctant autumn taking place all around me. I generally try to capture some seasonal images as the earth alters its course around the sun each year, but this time around, it seems that mother nature had other ideas, and stubbornly withheld the expected changes until just last week.

In the yard next door, my usual view out the window on that side would have displayed this scene a month ago, but only last week came into full blossom with many of the leaves already missing. In just the last few days, most all of the foliage in the trees lining the street was gone. The wind had wreaked havoc on whatever plumage remained and the tree now appears almost totally bare. This experience goes against the traditional one I generally expect at this time of year, and as I lay in bed pondering these changes, I looked back over several extraordinary life events that led up to the strangeness of my early morning awakening.

Beginning in late August, as I traveled to the first of three family gatherings as autumn approached, the sky above me looked so strange and peculiar as I rode astonished at the sight, that I had to capture the event, as though it were an omen of some sort. I couldn’t decide if this sky was ominous or simply extraordinary.

Gliding down the highway in silence, almost mesmerized by the sight of it, it gave me shivers as I held my eye up to viewfinder. What an amazing sight!

Last month brought me once again into the emotional rollercoaster ride as Father of the Bride. As we gathered for the marriage of my youngest daughter in the spectacular landscape of rural Virginia, the anticipated autumnal awesomeness was only barely underway as we prepared for the outdoor ceremony in the afternoon of Saturday, the 21st of October. Driving through the beauty of the sun kissed scenery, my heart already primed for the flood of feelings and memories, I was struck by the contrast with the previous driving experience, and could barely contain myself as I soaked in the spectacle before me.

On the first morning in Virginia before the wedding, I awoke at sunrise in the mountains, and was able to observe the first light while chatting with my daughter who called me on the phone. It was a compelling moment of many that would occur during the trip, but all the more poignant as I was able to share some fatherly advice with a nervous bride.

The view off the deck of the rental house above was taken on October 23rd and offered only a hint of Autumn’s colors, and while the temperatures were mild during the day, it was still chilly in the morning and that helped to remind me that we were indeed experiencing the autumnal transition. The thoughts passing through my mind on that morning turned to one of the most poignant moments that occurred over the weekend, when I first saw my youngest daughter in her wedding dress. I nearly fainted!

With one day available to me after the wedding to relax and look around, I decided to travel to nearby Charlottesville, Virginia to satisfy a lifelong desire to visit Monticello–the home of Thomas Jefferson. Ever since I was a small boy learning American History in school, I had wanted to visit this historical home, and it was another monumental and emotional experience on a weekend full of them. I will be writing a separate blog post about that visit soon, but I wanted to include an image from that day. The visit and tour of the estate will remain as one of the most significant of the many I acquired in any autumn season.

There have been so many moments throughout the season before winter this year that seemed to overwhelm my ability to process them well, and I couldn’t help but wonder about the confluence of each of these events and what the meaning might be for me personally. The perspective of years of memories of past autumns has run the gamut from the most stunningly beautiful to the personally devastating, and all along the way, every variation in between has contributed to the auguries of autumn for me.

It is sometimes said that a person in their sixth decade of life is approaching the “autumn of their years,” but I wonder now just how close the winter might be, and what wonders await me.