Unseasonably warm autumn days offer a kiss of hope

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Grey skies bring with them the whisper of winter. The lack of sunshine can throw us into mourning. Accepting the end of summer and the fading of autumn becomes harder as we grow older.

But last week, in the midst of autumn and after many grey days, a summer’s day appeared out of nowhere. It was a balmy 25 degrees and so warm and bright that on my way home from a walk with my sister, I could not help taking off my shoes to walk in the shallows.

Pedestrians walk along the beach on a unseasonably warm autumn day. Credit: Penny Stephens

The water was cold at first and then fresh and thrilling. My shadow preceded me, thrown forward by the afternoon sun. I walked in my silhouette, unhurried, carrying shoes in one hand, weaving around people and over mounds of broken shells as the sound of waves, the buzz of an airplane, the murmur of dispersed voices crowded out all other thoughts.

Beach-goers lounged on towels and in companionable groups. Puppies played on the edge of the waves. Someone had planted shells in wet sand in the shape of undulating waves. A woman sat contemplating the horizon on a foldable chair in the shallows, like a director watching a play. Yachts with black sails hovered in the distance on a watercolour sea.

The water was clear, the shells on the sandy sea floor beneath the waves visible. I stood in the water, content. Above me, the summer heat on clouds created wisps of mist.

A day like this in autumn feels like a reprieve, a word of encouragement, a kiss of hope.

If every day were simple and there were no knots to be undone, would we cherish a day like this as a gift, or regard it as our due? Is it only by experiencing hard times that we are able to appreciate tranquillity?

Writer and poet Khalil Gibran wrote of freedom that “verily all things move within your being in constant half embrace, the desired and the dreaded, the repugnant and the cherished, the pursued and that which you would escape. These things move within you as lights and shadows in pairs that cling. And when the shadow fades and is no more, the light that lingers becomes a shadow to another light.”

Gibran wrote that freedom is not being without a care or want or grief, but rather “when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound”.

American singer and songwriter Jane Marczewski (known professionally as Nightbirde) who, while she was fighting cancer, auditioned on America’s Got Talent with a song she wrote herself called It’s OK, said: “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”

She has since sadly passed away, but her message lives on.

Melissa Coburn is a Melbourne writer.

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