Autumn in The City of Angels

Monday, November 24, 2008

It is autumn in the City of Angels. The leaves on the Liquid Amber trees are turning color and falling to the ground. This morning at least, the heater has gone on to take the chill from the night. It will be off in a few moments. As soon as the sun peeks over the horizon, the chill will evaporate. You may need a sweater when you leave the house, but it will be in a pile on the back seat of your car by 9am. Chances are, it will be 85 degrees by 11am. Yes, it is autumn in Los Angeles.

This does not mean the mood of autumn is absent. One has to search more deeply for the signs of the earth's preparations for it's winter sleep. I have found, living in this climate, that one must look more inside oneself for the transformation of the seasons. In the Pacific Northwest, the change is more obvious, the leaves turn and fall, the rains begin and the feeling to retreat into one's home comes quickly and without question.

Here, where the sun shines more often than not, I must look for the small signs, the silent transformations. The shift of the breeze. The silence of the evening as the sun sets early over the Pacific. The quietness of the garden, once bursting with growth, now grows, but more slowly, quietly. One must grab the sweet air, just before the periwinkle blue of the sunrise ignites into a bright orange and pink. Just before the heat of the sun penetrates the bedroom curtains.

I love the contemplative mood of autumn. It is a time to put thoughts to rest, allow new impulses to ripen, and to develop patience for all to unfold in due time. When I was thirteen and fourteen, I would take the bus to the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. It was a long ride and I am surprised my parents allowed me to take such a long journey alone. My father was a bus driver, so I had a free bus pass and my parents had implicit trust in the Rapid Transit District. They would say,  "Just sit behind the bus driver! You will be safe there."  So, I would board the first of three buses and make my way to the Norton Simon.

It was there I fell in love with a painting. I mean head over heels in love. I would sit and stare at it for hours. I would fill notebooks with the subject's back story, why she appeared sad, what she was contemplating, perhaps she had just lost a baby or had been jilted by a lover. There were many stories, as I visited her often. 

Once, when we lived in Hawaii and were visiting Los Angeles, I went to see my old friend. She had been hanging in the same place for as long as we had been friends. She wasn't there. I fell into a panic. I began darting about the museum in a fright that she had been sold, or worse, delegated to the bowels of the Norton Simon, never to be seen again. I finally asked a guard and he thought maybe it had been moved to the far west wing. As I peeked around the corner, I could see her dark, melancholic eyes and forlorn stare. My heart beat returned to normal and I felt calm.

 I visited her on Saturday. The spring and fall are lovely times to visit the Norton Simon. The gardens are mild and bustling with dragon flies, and a gentle breeze slips over the garden sculptures to greet you. She has been moved again, but not very far. I always see her first, and then I can move on to the rest of my favorites, a few by Pissaro and Franz Marc, The Chestnut Gatherers, and finally, the Raphael. This visit, my companion and I sat in front of a great still life and embarked on a very serious discussion of how on earth this Flemish painter could have gathered all of these fruits and vegetables in one place. What season could this be? How could there be berries, gourds and pears? Where those hops in the corner? And if the melons and carrots were this large and ripe, how could the gooseberries still be fruiting? Futile contemplations, I know. We finally agreed that the grapes must have come from Italy with the figs, and the gourds were dried and from the previous season. There were also musings that the female in the painting was very likely an enchantress, and therefore, able to conjure such a bounty of fruits and vegetables of varying seasons to fill her table.

Nonetheless, here in Los Angeles, one must find rituals to bring autumn to it's fullest. For me, it is the museum, the smell of the paintings, the silent whispers of the patrons, these are my signals to turn inward, to plant the seeds that require maturation, to nurse patience and resolve. What are the signs that signal a change for you?   


Frank said...

It's supposed to rain tomorrow, lady, so you may see some actual weather soon!