Archive for October, 2009

October in America

Yellow maples.

Yellow maples.

Thursday was a perfect day for hiking on Indian Fort Mountain near Berea (also known as “the Pinnacles” to those of us familiar with it).

I tread on a golden carpet of leaves, illuminated by the bright autumn sunlight that filtered through the maples’ majestic canopies. At the crest, there were deep red sumac leaves and  bright green lichens covering huge boulders. And the view from the overlook was of other mountains, their hues blending into a warm orange.

The crispness in the air, the brilliant azure sky, the peacefulness of it all made me feel so alive.

Fall has always been my favorite time of the year, which may have been why God allowed me to be born in October.

Fr. Thomas Merton at Gethsemani

Fr. Thomas Merton at Gethsemani

Today I was reminded of what Thomas Merton, Kentucky’s (and the world’s) most famous 20th century Trappist monk, wrote about this time of year in his classic spiritual autobiography, “The Seven Storey Mountain”:

“October is a fine and dangerous season in America. It is dry and cool and the land is wild with red and gold and crimson, and all the lassitudes of August have seeped out of your blood, and you are full of ambition. It is a wonderful time to begin anything at all. …”

Merton was writing about returning to college as a young man, but it’s a sentiment that I think could apply to any time of life, including middle age.

Was Benjamin Button right about living?

Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett as adventurous fortysomething lovers in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett as adventurous forty-somethings in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

Last Monday, I got a call from a local video store to let me know that I would be eligible for a free movie rental the next day because it was my birthday. I rented  “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” an odd film based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story about a man who is born old and ages backward.

The main characters are played by Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Near the end of the story, Benjamin is writing to his daughter Caroline, played by Julia Ormond, who is now in her mid-forties. The movie revolves around her reading her father’s journal to her dying mother.

Here’s what Benjamin tells her:

“For what it’s worth, it’s never too late, or in my case, too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it.

“I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. And if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over again.”

I hadn’t expected an object lesson about life, just an entertaining movie. But as this was my 49th birthday, it had more of an effect than it otherwise would.

Is Fitzgerald’s fictional character Benjamin Button right when he says it’s never too late to be who you want to be? Is middle age too old to find “the strength to start over again”?

I wonder.

October 2009
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