Finally Fall

I seem to be seasonally obsessed lately. My last post was on the verge of Spring. Now I am inspired by the cooling of air, the turning of leaves, the honking of geese overhead (I assume flying South, though I am directionally-challenged).

Some call my favorite season autumn, which I secretly prefer because ‘fall’ sounds like an accident—brisk and sharp—whereas ‘autumn’ sounds the way this time of year feels to me. Soft, lilting, humming. It is the one season I wish would last forever. There is so much right with fall and so many defects to the seasons in which it is bracketed–we plunge into the sweltering summer and brace against the frost of winter. But fall, we can almost wallow in.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore summer, when I am playing tennis. And since I am not Serena nor seventeen my stamina and skill buys me a good hour or two on the court.  I can pretend blistering sun and 300% humidity is fun when I am on a beach in some Caribbean resort where chilled cucumbers don my puffy eyes (which seem befitting, almost cute in a Caribbean resort more than they do on subway in lower Manhattan) and I drain Cuban rum an coconut water from my glass.

And winter is a time to be revered. It is a season that shuts you down regardless of your intent or effort. Just try and make your destination while a Nor’Easter has planted four feet of fresh wet powder at your doorstep. And there is something romantic–albeit briefly–about layers of sweaters, funny hats, technicolor scarves and lumberjack boots. But, as I don’t live in a home with a fireplace and my metabolism will no longer indulge countless nights of cocoa and marshmallows, the dream-like state of windowpanes frosted over for months wears thin about two hours after New Years Day.

Spring, yes, that is a time I can get happy about. It gives me hope that everything will be alright. As my faith has waned over the years, spring is a reminder that just when you are about to give up hope is precisely when you can get absolutely, stark-raving giddy over the site of a lavender crocus pushing painfully through the bleak and muddy ground.

Autumn however is a time I prayed for as a child. I looked forward to going back to school. Go ahead, proceed with the name calling, I embrace my inner-geek, dweeb, dork, bookworm. School was safe. There were rules–and as mine was parochial, so many rulers as well! We had uniforms and set class times, expectations that seemed attainable. People got glasses and braces and grew breasts and hair everywhere. It was a freak show and a second family to me. I loved opening my black-and-white marbled Cosmopolitan notebook, each one labelled for its respective subject in a different colored marker, and having my fingers ink-soaked by our required blue fountain pens. We wore blazers and knee socks with Buster Brown shoes, which everyone bought from the corner shoe store as advised by the school. We jumped into piles of leaves–or were pushed, depending on your social ranking.

Autumn for me has always been a time to be outdoors comfortably. As a child I could run and jump and frolic (I know children no longer frolic!) and my cheeks would grow crimson against my pale white skin, but underneath I would still be chilled by the air, which smelled of imminent snow and chimneys.  In the summer, any time outdoors doing anything or nothing meant being burned red (I am not sure we had SPF back then). And, having grown up in a city in the 1970s, I can attest there were no good smells of any kind.

There is something to the air growing crisp that makes us calm down just as the summer seems to bubble up agitation. By the end of August you imagine people at some point will lose their composure completely and peel off their suits and run through the meek trickles of water that come out of hydrants with those new sprinkler caps. As a child, our hydrants ran free and full-force so  we could watch a frail four year old be blown across a sidewalk. And yes, we laughed as this happened because we were children and it was summer and it was a time to be stupid.

Fall is a time to reflect. It’s like the second act of a play, or like mid-life. You slow down, see where things are going, how they have been going so far, where they might be leading going forward. It can be a difficult time. Looking back, glancing to an uncertain future. We loose parents now, kids grow up now, we feel our bodies grow slower now.

The colors this time of year also seem more relaxed. The sun slipping below the Hudson River in September feels more golden and gentle, less orange and frisky than it does in July. It’s a good thing, this slowing, softening, daydreaming time. Every bit of media admonishes us to fight it, fake it, fear it. But, what if we embraced it? Threw open our arms and slid into it like a comfy sweater? What if we sat still a bit and let the cooling breeze of Fall slip around our skin, closed our eyes against the less-brilliant setting sun, breathed in deeply of woodsy air and far-off chimneys?

What if, instead of rushing towards or away from the next stage or age the way we dashed towards our adulthood as young teenagers (only to find it was a bit more ‘oh come on, you’ve got to be kidding me, this is it?’), we just strolled into it, took it a step at a time, felt our way around gradually as we did when we were toddlers and it was okay to be unsure and unbalanced.

Fall seems to be a forgiving time. It reminds me, or perhaps the passing years do, that it might be good to be forgiving of myself as well. Stomach spread? Cover it with a sweater! Overdone meat and underdone potato? Make a stew! No energy to tend to your lawn and garden? No problem, it will be there for you come springtime! Too dark and cold to take on a new project? Find a blanket, a loved one, and take to your couch! It will be Winter soon enough, you will have to slow down even more then, and you need the practice now.

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