n the foothills of the Canadian Rockies where we live, fall is more an event than a season.
We don’t have Maple Leafs that turn scarlets and blood red. Mostly we have yellows – from pale straw to almost copper - with hints of red in the brush and odd small tree. And from the first bit of color until the last leaf falls is no more than a few weeks. The peak lasts mere days. Today was one of them. Warm. Sunny. Hardly any wind, which is rare here. An unexpected gift.
We live about 15 minutes west of Calgary, Alberta on a small acreage surrounded by farmer’s fields and a few trees. I was driving through the country this morning with my 12-year-old daughter, Teresa, to drop her off at a friend’s home on my way to work. We were not far out of the driveway when I noted aloud how gorgeous the day was; how the grass in the fields and ditches had suddenly become many hued gold, tinged crimson; how it smelled like fall. Teresa agreed and we chatted about other things. And then we rounded a corner and began to climb a hill through a small forest. The sudden riot of yellows and reds made us both stop talking. I slowed down to take it all in. Silence held us for a few moments. I wished for a camera and the skill to bring landscapes like this to life.
Teresa and I had already spoken of my favourite fall day – one much like today almost 25 years ago – when my wife Juli and I married “for time and all eternity” in the Mormon Temple at Cardston. After the ceremony, Juli and I spent a few timeless minutes by ourselves journal writing and talking in a tree-filled country park before descending into the well-intended maelstrom of family dinner and reception. From the sublime to the ridiculous.
Teresa broke the silence by asking whether I had ever thought about getting married again – “to Mom”, she quickly added to my confused look. “And you could do it in these fields instead of in the Temple.” She has heard me say that our vows were diluted; dirtied by the promise we made to obey the Mormon Church while loving and being faithful to each other. We did not question, until recently, the impossibility of that task.
Why had I not thought of new vows? Juli and I had agreed to new terms for our marriage shortly after I decided I would no longer obey Mormon authority. And after many tears and several firestorms, our relationship seemed to work better than ever. So why not have another ceremony? And what better place could we find for it than right here? I thought the idea brilliant, and told Teresa so while thanking her for insight well beyond her years.
Now it was Teresa’s turn to be confused. She had been silent in her own world far from the autumn scene that transfixed me, and was idly musing when she suggested getting married again. “Vows?” she said. “What do you mean?”
Nonetheless, I soared with the day’s colours while we completed our trip. By the time I dropped Teresa off, I felt that going to work (even though I had important things to do) would waste something precious. My instinct was to share the moment with Juli, but knowing that she was off doing errands until dinnertime, I settled for relishing the thought of doing that in the evening when we would be together again. And so, on the spur of that beautiful Saturday morning moment, I headed to a golf course that I suspected would be replete with fall colours.
Some will no doubt think it a sacrilege to sully the sacred that had lifted me with golf. But golf is for me a form of walking meditation. My eldest daughter laughed when I told her this. “Sure Dad. Whatever! As long as you get to go golfing”, she said. Such is the cross people like me must bear.
To golf well I need to find that slender meditative space between fear and desire; to exist completely in the moment. That experience, and pleasant company, is all I ask of golf. And when my plea is granted, I connect more deeply with the present in this way than almost any other. Those who have experienced this with golf or any other activity will understand. And nothing I can say will move those who have not.
It has been an almost golfless summer (five rounds before today) as a result of a variety of family and work related things I chose to do instead.