The Beauty of Fall

By Elijah Noble (Iowa)

The air is brisk, filling your lungs with that burning sensation, just cold enough to keep you refreshed. You’re standing in a valley, which is just initiating its transition into fall. The valley, with its greens, greys, and whites, is now being filled with oranges, yellows, and reds. At the bottom of the valley, a little river meanders along its path, guarded by steep cliffs and tall evergreens. In the distance, a lonely mountain stands, watching the day go by.

Everything is preparing for fall.

The aspens have begun to lose their leaves, the crickets have laid to rest for winter. It seems as if the entire valley has begun to hold its breath, bracing itself for a familiar, icy embrace. Welcome to the Piedra River Valley, the location of our adventure day.

It was a relaxing day. The kind of day that gave way to conversations, books, and rock climbing, thanks to Anthony and Jillian, both experienced rock climbers. It was the kind of day that could only be described as beautiful.

As I sat there, thinking about how beautiful everything was, I was reminded of the conversation we had in Dr. Anderson’s class. In his class, we read A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare. In act 5 of the play, Theseus finds beauty to be illogical.

“The lover, all as frantic, sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt. The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling, Doth glance from heaven to Earth, from Earth to heaven, And as imagination bodies forth the form of things unknown, the poet’s pen turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name. Such tricks hath strong imagination that, if it would but apprehend some joy. It comprehends some bringer of that joy. Or in the night, imagining some fear, How easy is a bush supposed a bear!”–Midsummer Night’s Dream (Act 5, Scene 1)

Beauty, as Theseus rightly argued, makes no common sense. The poet uses imagery to give form to a nameless substance which somehow, everyone can understand.

What is it that makes the Piedra River Valley so beautiful? Is it something that is seen? Or is it felt within the depths of one’s soul? How is it that everyone can acknowledge one thing as beautiful and another as ugly? Why is it that we disagree with each other on some objects being beautiful? Is there a standard for beauty? Or is it up to personal preference? Can you be trained to see beauty? Is it like training your imagination? And so, I ask again, what is beauty?

These are the kind of thoughts that permeate my mind as I enjoy the beauty of fall. In the end, I just sit back and relish it. Maybe that’s what beauty is, not something you can know, but something you can feel. And so I sit, close my eyes, and listen. I listen to the chatter of my friends as they enjoy the brisk autumn day, watch the trickle of the river flowing across smooth grey stones, and hear the chirping of a lone bird declaring the works of the Lord. And there I sit, in the beauty of fall.