There’s a road just outside of town called October Road. It’s a country road that goes from nowhere to nowhere, but to many people, October Road is home. And during my life, I’ve walked many miles on October Road. I’ve seen the farmhouses, the barns, the farm dogs, and the farm animals.
I’ve walked down October Road in the bitter winds of January, in the fresh fragrant spring breezes of April, and in the heat and humidity of a lazy and still August day.
But the October Road walks I remember most of all are the ones I’ve taken where my eyes were dazzled by the capricious colors of the autumn leaves; trees painted beautifully by an unseen Artist in the middle of October — in the heart of Autumn.
As I walk along — and more slowly than my normal pace — I hear the rustling of the painted leaves as they sway precariously on a hearty October wind. Some of them, weakened by the chill, cannot hang on and they swirl and swoop through the air and land, unceremoniously and without a sound on the still-green grass.
I think to myself as I gaze on the glorious and dazzling display before me that this autumn the leaves seem brighter and more colorful than I’ve ever seen them before. Then I laugh at my thoughts because I think the same thing every year.
And as I walk down October Road on this quiet October day, amazed at the beautiful scenery that surrounds me, a thought occurs to me and my thoughts carry me away to another timeless place deep inside of me that no one sees but me.
As my eyes are dazzled by dancing autumn leaves, deftly clinging to the branches of old the maple, sycamore, ash, and birch trees that line this old, thinly paved road, In the quiet place inside, I think about the evanescent nature of our lives and our loves – and of all of the things we think are important.
And, though I’ve had these thoughts many times before, nothing makes it plainer or clearer, and nothing touches my thoughts and feelings more than realizing, on a day like today, that the only thing that makes anything valuable is its scarcity.
The days of our lives, even if we live for one hundred years, are scarce in number. The sun and stars we almost always take for granted – and most days don’t even notice – shine for trillions of days – while we and those we love shine for only thousands of days – even if we live one hundred years.
I calculate in my swirling mind that one hundred years equals about 36,500 days -give or take a few leap days. The sun is 1.6 trillion days old. Compared to the sun, the days of our lives are but an infinitesimal flicker – a meaningless and inconsequential tick on the cosmic clock.
And all the things that touch our hearts, the things that break our hearts, the births, the deaths, the struggles, the victories, the defeats, the sorrows, the joys – everything that means anything to us– occurs during that one flickering tick on the cosmic clock.
All our days are scarce and yet we don’t treasure them… not really. We wake each morning and it’s another day until that morning comes when the world goes on without us, barely noticing we are gone.
The only way we can live on is in the memories and the hearts of those who love us. How terrible it would be to leave this world without anyone left behind to remember us.
So, love is all that matters, and love is as scarce as our time on this Earth. We can only live beyond the paltry number of days that we are given by staying alive in the memories of those who love us.
There is far too little love in this world. We all share the same Earth. We all breathe the same air. All of us are born and every single one of us will die. We all share so much, yet love is far too scarce on this pale blue dot upon which we spend our lives.
I think of love and life, of beginnings and endings, of family and friends...
And then, as if waking from a dream, I realize I’m two miles further down October Road. I hear a dog barking in the distance – it’s the only sound other than the autumn wind and the swaying of the newly painted leaves… and my footsteps crunching on the fallen leaves that line the edges of the road.
These beautifully colored leaves won’t be with us very long. They will all have fallen, their bright colors faded to a dull brown, lining the sides of October Road – unnoticed, dishonored, and dead.
So, today I will breathe in the chilly autumn air and take in the beautiful autumn scenery. It won’t be long before the trees turn into brittle skeletons, standing stark in the black and white landscape of winter – creaking and cracking unnoticed and unloved in the bitter winter winds.
When I walk down October Road on some snowy, brutally cold January day, I won’t even notice the skeletons that line the road – and I know I won’t remember the bright, green leaves of summer nor the colorful countenance they now wear on this exceptional October Day.
My lonely autumn walk down October Road, lined by the blazingly beautiful trees, reminds me that the days of our lives are scarce…and that’s what makes each one of them – and each one of us – so valuable.