As I write, my computer screen reflects the view out the window behind me: a maple tree, yellow, glowing from within, against a brilliant blue sky. Here in Minnesota we’re experiencing one of the longest and most spectacular autumns I can remember. When I’m outdoors raking the sidewalk under this tree or biking Gwyn to school down a street lined with exuberance, I do what every sane Minnesotan does. I memorize it. I store away all that color and warmth the same way we can the fat red heirloom tomatoes from the garden and preserve our abundance of raspberries. We need to be imprinted by a day like this to make it through the winter. We need to saturate our minds with golds and reds and clear blue; we need to soak our skin with the sun’s heat; we need to store up the free feeling of walking without a heavy coat.
I still remember a moment from an August day two decades ago; I was canoeing in the Boundary Waters past a boggy patch dense with dewdrops and other carnivorous plants and was suddenly struck by a stretch of green reeds growing from the water. The green was so intense I could taste it, and I did, and do today as I write this. Or I remember a walk with Emily at Wild River State Park when we were newly in love. A grove of birch trees was losing the last of its yellow leaves, the ground was layered in yellow, the air itself danced with yellow, and yellow fell on me. I chose to remember this.
No—canning is the wrong metaphor. The tomatoes and raspberries get eaten and forgotten, but that yellow, that vibrant green feed me still.
I want to be opened up and marked today. Changed. Colored. I want to be these maple branches against a blue sky for Gwyn when I greet her at school. I want to be so rich in pigment that it seeps into these words and paints your mind. Today I worship a God named Beauty, or, if you prefer, I love how beauty is a source of life. And I love how beauty, like God, can sustain us even when it’s gone. –Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew