Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Finally, Autumn

With October's arrival, we can officially begin to celebrate autumn. I love the fall like no other season. Much more than spring, the traditional season of rebirth, autumn feels like a new beginning. Perhaps this perspective lingers from childhood when the changing of the leaves and the cooling of temperatures would coincide with a new school year, an updated “back to school” wardrobe, and, inevitably, a new dynamic waiting to emerge in the social politics of schoolyards, homerooms, and cafeterias. Awkward teenagers with braces, glasses, and gangly limbs might reappear after a summer’s gestation transformed into elegantly proportioned young adults injected with newfound confidence. These tectonic social shifts and their residual imprint seem in keeping with nature's logic given autumn's inherent drama. 

While spring blossoms and fresh green growth offer their own beauty, the theatricality of deep, vibrant fall colors at their peak can electrify an entire landscape as far as vision permits. Not just sight, but all senses are engaged by autumn’s stagecraft. The rich, earthy smell of foliage at its earliest moment of decay is paradoxically invigorating, especially as it coalesces with the frequent aromas of fire pits and outdoor grills. The cacophonous nighttime sounds of tree frogs and crickets are soon replaced by subtle gusts of wind blowing crisp leaves to the ground, nature's way of adding nourishment back to the soil when spared the absurd indignity of a metal rake, plastic bag, and over-industrious homeowner. Dense root vegetables accompanied by pungent spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice ring in a season of harvest and communal meals. Perhaps most satisfying, however, is the physical sensation of cool air across the skin, especially after the oppressive heat and humidity of late summer in the south. For all of these reasons and more, the fall also offers the best in hiking, camping, and simply enjoying the outdoors.

Autumn’s modest temperatures make for splendidly pleasant walks in the woods that don't involve clingy clothing saturated in sweat and salt. Campfires actually become somewhat “necessary” and infinitely more satisfying. My favorite aspect of hiking in the fall is the annual retreat back under the ground for snakes as well as my irrational preoccupation with them. For many, however, the most celebrated reason for enjoying autumn outdoors is the intoxicating beauty of the land transformed by saturated hues of gold, crimson, and orange. The wilderness simply feels more hospitable as if decorating for its perennial bash. While I am excited for the fall’s sensory pleasures and outdoor excursions, I am trying this season to also consider the deeper meanings and to harness the sense of shift and transition it inspires.

First and foremost, I hope to harvest some of the lessons learned over a summer that turned out to present some personal struggles. As the plants and trees shake loose their leaves having soaked up all of the energy and nutrition available , I’d like to consider the dropping of old habits that have become dry and brittle, usurped of all utility. Furthermore, I hope to accept the fleeting, temporal nature of all experiences which only heightens the preciousness of each moment. As the long days of bright summer light shorten to more closely mimic the duration of nightfall, I hope to consider my own balance in temperament and accept my own shadows and darkness as a necessary part of being human. In short, while I plan to appreciate the stirring vibrancy of early fall, I want to also remember it is a season to prepare for new growth, new beginnings, and, mercifully, a genuine need for long pants and a jacket. 

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