During the past few weeks, I’ve been at three different Toastmasters meetings where the theme of the meeting was autumn, or the changing of the seasons. At all of them, participants and guests were asked what they liked best about the fall season.

Probably the most popular response was about the fall colors. Even though we experience it every year, there’s something magical and mesmerizing about the glorious colors of fall when they first start to appear. Throughout the season, we continue to marvel at the variety and intensity of the colors until they finally reach their peak. Although I know it’s coming every year, I’m always startled when I first notice the leaves changing color, and I am delighted by it all over again. Like a favorite movie that I watch over and over, I enjoy the show even though I know exactly how it’s going to end.

Another popular response had to do with the cooler, more comfortable weather. I’m in that camp, too. Although I love being outdoors on a warm, sunny, summer day, there’s something both comforting and invigorating about the weather when there’s a chill in the air – when sweaters and afghans come out of the closet, and when our tastes and food choices turn more to “comfort foods.” This time of year always makes me want to start digging through my cookbooks and newspaper clippings for soup and stew recipes.

Just to be different from everyone else, and also because it’s one of my autumn rituals, I answered questions about my favorite part of the fall season with three words: hot buttered rum.  Every year around this time, there comes a day when the brisk wind and the falling leaves remind me that it’s time to mix up my annual concoction that keeps in the refrigerator all winter, and that produces a mug of warmth with the quick addition of a shot of rum and some boiling water.

I think it’s not only the sights and tastes, but the sounds and smells of autumn that make it so special. They connect me with memories that go back as far as I can remember. The scent of bonfires and of apples and pumpkins. The crunch of leaves underfoot and the distant echoes of marching bands as they practice and prepare for the homecoming game and parade. All our senses are called into play during autumn, and if we take the time to experience and enjoy them, how can we not love everything that the season offers?

Maybe that’s why we seem to have a heightened sense of the changes that come with fall, more so than with the other seasons. And although the changes are dramatic, we still know what to expect. And we can anticipate what’s to come.

Perhaps all the changes in our lives – especially the ones we never saw coming or didn’t want to accept – would be easier to swallow if we thought of them in terms of our favorite parts of autumn, recognizing and realizing that if we pay attention we’ll discover bright colors, comforting sounds, and interesting new flavors and scents along the way.  And perhaps some special treats, like my hot buttered rum.

The next time I’m in charge of the theme at a Toastmasters meeting, I think I’ll select the subject of change. Not the change of seasons or of our favorite parts of fall. And not the fear and uncertainty that change can cause. Instead it will be about the splendor that awaits us if we use all of our senses to explore and experience it.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on October 18, 2012.

© Betty Liedtke, 2012

I welcome your comments on this column. Please be aware that all comments require approval before appearing on this blog. This is to protect all of us from unwanted spam.