Autumn, or fall as they say in the USA, is one of my favourite times of year. The colours, those subtle changes from summer’s heat into the first taste of winter conspire to make it an interesting season. However, the horrors of the world, our jobs or just plain old normal life make it far too easy to be distracted from noticing the colours, tastes and smells of our world. Years ago a dear friend who had just heard her doctor confirm that her old body was going into a heart failure that would soon kill her told me she had few regrets about dying but revealed one to me.
Photo by Philippe Put
She was sad that she would never see the first green shoots after winter or a dew laden rosebud captured in spring sunlight. She also said she would never experience the colours of autumn at its height – so her big regret was that she wished she had known it was to be her last spring and autumn so that she could have taken more time to drink in those experiences instead of allowing them to simply be the backdrop to her slow decline. Feeling her sadness I was quick to point out that we were in early autumn and persuaded her to allow me to arrange for the bed to be placed by her window that looked out onto the pretty garden of the nursing home, where the leaves of trees and bushes were starting to take on the subtle reds, yellows and purples of the season.
Eventually, quite breathless from the exertion of being propped up on pillows to take in the view, she thanked me for arranging it but was equally quick to point out that the real glory of autumn was still weeks away, weeks we both knew she did not have.
Photo by Dan G
Life often sidetracks us and sometimes fixates us with issues and problems or temporary distractions that all too often consume the best days of our lives much faster than we realise. If we are lucky, we will have a long and reasonably happy life unlike the millions killed or displaced by war, famine or deadly diseases. If you are reading this in your own home on your own laptop or device and you are not hungry, or anxiously in a place of danger you are in the lucky minority. If you have never felt you are sometimes a pawn of some power crazed dictator, whose psychopathic tendencies could see him snuff out your life and the lives of your friends of family without a second thought, rather than lose his corrupted power or allow any slight to his fragile ego, then again feel grateful. Most of all try hard to remember this when someone turns to you and your fellow citizens for help or safe asylum after they have escaped from war or tyranny.
Photo by Erik Drost
Of course for every charitable person there are three or four times more people who have allowed themselves to be fed by the hate and downright lies of politicians or state controlled media machines, who find it easier to turn their backs on such desperate people. Yes we all feel some of the fallout from that filthy war in Syria but never forget the almost forgotten conflicts within Africa, which produce four times more refugees than those from Syria and beyond. The biggest refugee camp in the world is not in Turkey but in Kenya, with millions of people scratching out an existence in hundreds of other camps throughout much of central and sub-Saharan Africa. In far, far too many African countries, it is the poor that suffer while the ruling elite and dictators get richer by trading off their countries national resources cheaply to China or multinationals. Most of these cesspits of corruption have been endlessly perpetuated through rigged elections since the day the colonial powers abandoned them to their fate. Far too often crooked leaders have claimed legitimacy for their veneer-democracies by pointing out that they are little different to their neighbours: Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Angola, Congo, Togo, Uganda, Nigeria, Gambia are amongst the most corrupt but name any single country in Africa that is a fully functioning democracy with little corruption and I might just tell you where to find unicorns.
Photo credited to The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa
Of course there is little point in turning to the most powerful democracy in the world for help or leadership at the moment because of the pre-election paralysis that always grips the USA for at least 18 months of every 4 year term. Far too many of its citizens, many who would struggle to find Africa on a world map, let alone locate a sovereign country within it, seem too interested in watching the reality TV show that is the Clinton vs Trump campaigns for President than give a second thought about refugees. That is of course, unless the conversation is about keeping the tiny amount that may actually end up trying to seek asylum in America on the other side of Trump’s ridiculous wall.
Photo care of tonypro-fineart.com
Far too often the world seems preoccupied by similar contrived media circuses or the new breasts or new nail polish colour of some Kardashian or other, to worry too much about senseless wars and out of control dictators. For that very same reasons it is also unlikely that more than a few would ever find the time to look up from their phones or devices for long enough to enjoying a seasons colours or to stop for a moment just to smell the flowers.
Photo credited to David Ohmer
In a strange way my friend got part of her last wish, when her funeral took place on the most colourful autumn/fall day I could remember. If her spirit wasn’t present then she was certainly carried there in the hearts of her friends. So don’t leave it too late to start enjoying the world you live in, for better or worse, because for all you know you might actually have much less time on this beautiful, messed up planet than you care to think about.