One of America's favorite 19th century poems describes death as a thoughtful gentleman caller who accompanies the poet on a leisurely drive in the country that pauses at certain places as if to allow her to remember moments that shouldn't be forgotten.
Most literature teachers would say that the reason that poem is in every high school lit book is not just the virtuosity of the poet, Emily Dickinson, but also the odd virtue of the subject she chose in that little verse--the memorable portrayal of death as a gentleman.
I don't think Ms. Dickinson got the idea from autumn, although she might have. She lived in Amherst, Massachusetts, where hardwoods must be glorious come October, glorious even if the leaves are dying, glorious because they are.
Yesterday, we walked in the almost heavenly northwoods. When the sun shines on all that approaching death, it turns a forest path into a pageant. This time of year, an autumn landscape is a horizon-wide bouquet. But sometimes I think the real beauty of the season is in still life portraits that abound--sunny day, deep woods--with almost every step you take.
The woods are full of the intimations of mortality, but what a way to go.