ApplesWe drove through the winding roads surrounding Romeo, a small town full of apple orchards in southeast Michigan. Delphina sat in the passenger seat and we tried to figure out which orchard to stop at to get a bunch of McIntosh apples. She was four years old at the time. It mattered more to her where there would be fun stuff to look at or do. The chances she’d walk away with a caramel apple made more of an impact on her decision-making than the quality of apple I searched for. Yet, I took her input seriously because this is one of those trips that end up being cherished as a memory that never fades away. I can still feel the autumn chill in the Michigan air that day, even though the first day of fall was yet two days away. The leaves had already started to collect along the roadway, shimmering golds and crimsons, and the scent of decay sailed along with the wind. Summer surely was closing its warm doors and that made me plenty jubilant.

The spring of the year symbolizes re-birth or renewal. The autumn often means closure or a means to an end, winter. Conversely for me, though, the fall of the year has come to mean something quite the opposite. For me, it’s the spring of life. There is no other time of year that makes me feel like living life anew. The closure of summer brings about a host of possibilities – gatherings, foods, experiences, learning. It colors the lens of my life like no other time of year. I feel like loving. I feel like experiencing. I feel like growing.

Delphina and I drove the hour or so back to our home amidst the aroma of bright, sweet, and sour apples. I’d bought probably two dozen or so of the crisp fruits of reddish gold. Of course, Fina’s face was a little messy from the caramel apple she made an attempt to chomp down. What kid – and Delphina was not a messy eater – is actually able to eat one of those without making a mess? I contemplated what exactly to do with the apples that my wife was not going to use for her apple bake – whole apples, cored, filled with sugar and nuts, baked until soft. With so many options, how could one choose?

Kim and I had a gathering planned to celebrate the passing of summer into the harvest. It was to take place on the Autumnal Equinox. We had everything planned – the food, drink, and music. We’d asked everyone to bring a dish to share with others and maybe some drink as well. Of course, everyone was notified to be aware and sensitive to the fact that there would be an inordinate amount of vegans attending. Foods of the harvest lend themselves well to being meat and dairy free.

The evening of the fest came, warm with a slight bite of chill. We lit candles, covered the television with a sarong, and waited. Who would actually attend? People can be counted on to love the idea of attending a party but are rarely energized enough to do so. The sweet smell of apples and squash filled the air all the way out to our porch.

Little did we know that this first Harvest Party would not only be well attended, but would turn into a feast anticipated yearly by all our friends. What we thought would be a small party of friends sharing precious time with one another morphed into a Thanksgiving meal. We all loved one another and we all made sure that we were thankful for the treasure of friendship. We ate, drank, and probably sang as the evenings moved on.

It’s hard to pass this time of year without remembering our lives as they were back then. The last Harvest Party took place in 2002 – six years ago. I can count those days as the best years of my entire life. I’ve come to realize that through the magnificence of food and the bare-naked power of friendship, the circle of life itself is a celebration of knowing one another. It’s an ever-lasting homage to the love we have for our friends, for our Earth and the bounty for which it gives birth every spring and summer, the harvest of fall, and the death of winter.

See, it is the autumn that brings love into my life and prods me into remembering what life is all about: living.

Here’s to the autumn and to one day celebrating the Harvest again amongst our dear friends in Michigan.