Quiet Joys of a Middle American Autumn

Why do the sights, smells and sounds of fall tug so strongly at our heartstrings? Kansas newspaperman Rudy Taylor takes the long way home in search of the answer.


Photos explore autumn colors and activities across the country. Click on the photos to advance the slide show and on “captions” to read more about the photographs.


The light air of autumn creates sentimentality in me.

I bask in the sounds I hear, the afternoon breezes and the long shadows of evening. 

I suppose everyone lingers longer than they should during favorite times of the year. But isn’t Middle America in the autumn a wonderful place to live, raise families and do the work that keeps our days occupied?

There’s a special man and woman who have lived in our small-town neighborhood for many years. They’re older now, and I drive the long way home every day, just so I can glance their way.

Over the years, I’ve come to expect their simple yet magnificent ways — his slow and peaceful walks around the block; her puttering in flower gardens; their smiles as they sit together in the shade of their big trees; the lights in their windows that make their home so beckoning.

It is so apparent that their home is a sanctuary from the world.

I see it at Christmas-time. During the greening of springtime. And during the long days of summer when they work every evening in the yard together.

But nothing in the world tugs at my heartstrings more than watching this couple in the autumn. They go to a backyard shed and drag out boxes of decorations, first for Halloween, then modify them slightly for the upcoming Thanksgiving season.

I like to practice being them.

I well remember the neighborhood where I grew up — the special events and the colors of fall. Ours was everything a home should be — tree-lined street, familiar houses with friendly neighbors in every one of them. 

Pumpkins and cornstalks during the fall were mainstays that created vivid memories.

And, so it is along the street that leads to our home this very October.

We look at that special, older couple. We breathe in one more day of life, thankful to do so.

We gaze at the red sunset that blends the rags and riches. Taverns and  steeples. Past and present.