MARYLHURST — The flaming reds, the burnt oranges, the golden yellows, the greens fading in order to give way to a new canvas… Ah, for the moment we are left speechless, motionless, and even unaware of our own issues, cares, struggles, and “to do” lists. We are simply caught up in a glimpse of the mystery of creation, even of the transcendence of the creator God. The poet John O’Donohue reminds us:

“[B]eauty is the homeland of the heart…When God created it, it was fashioned for an eternal kinship with beauty. God knew that the human heart would always be wedded to him in desire; for the other name of God is Beauty.”

When we gaze out the window, we ask our companions, “Have the fall colors ever been this intense?” The beauty of the fall color palette captures us in the midst of business deals, household tasks, or parish meetings. We become contemplatives again.

In reality, we were created to be contemplative human beings. I recall watching my brother for about 20 minutes while he contemplated his first son, absolutely unaware of me, the room, everything around him, except the mystery of life in his lap. As an 8-year-old I had watched my grandmother’s lips move continually as she punched the dough for the bread she would serve that night. This tiny Irish Catholic was wife of a disinherited English Anglican, mother of 13 children and an herbalist who kept her own family and many others alive with her home remedies.

And then consider my mother, who said seven rosaries a day for her six children and the needs of the world and who wore out her prayer books so quickly that I went to the Mount Angel bookstore to buy new ones time after time.

My grandmother and my mother had learned what was meant by the words of St. Paul in 1 Thessalonians: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” To me that meant: Try to be with God wherever you are and in whatever you are doing. Catholics as well as Protestants and Buddhists agree that living mindfully and attentively prepares our hearts to live contemplatively in every season, not just autumn.

But I vote for autumn as the number one season for contemplation. Winter greys make us want to curl up before the fireplace with a bowl of popcorn. Spring greens fill our hearts with a desire for new life and new beginnings. Summer’s yellow sunshine gives a lightness and vibrancy to life’s activities. But simply drinking in the myriad splashes of color that autumn offers so generously to the canvases of our lives often bathes our souls in awe before the divine artist.

Sr. Cecilia is a writer and retired professor.