I like fall. It’s a fine season: it’s not so damn hot anymore, plus everything looks better in autumnal gold. I’m not such a big fan of pumpkin spice, but I’ll admit to increased root vegetable consumption, I have a few sweaters in the back of my closet I’ve been missing since March, and I eagerly welcome the advent of Stew Season.
My favorite campsites are clearing out; I no longer have to fight for parking, even at crowded trailheads, or wait in line for climbs (except at the gym, where lines have grown exponentially). Fall has its perks.
One of my greatest challenges, this time of year, is to resist the urge to engage in turning-of-leaves-related metaphor, and if you’ll indulge me just this once, I’ll try and make it to December with as little of this tomfoolery as possible. To everything there is a season, amirite? Okay, here goes.
I have a hard time with fall. Something nostalgic, I guess. It’s not the back-to-school memories, so much. And in fact, I’m usually ready for a reprieve from the sweltering summer, and yet, as the sun shows up later and the nights start to cool, I always feel this sense of loss—the feeling that I’ve let something irreplaceable pass too quickly, without fully appreciating it.
This happens every September, regardless of whether I’m seventeen and have just wasted the whole summer, well, wasted, or I’ve just moved to Alaska, or I’m reentering civilization after my kick-ass honeymoon. It doesn’t matter how well I spend the summer: the arrival of fall makes me look back at it and second-guess.
It’s always that first really autumn day that it dawns on me. Not the official first day of fall; I don’t need an equinox to question my own decision-making. You know those really crisp, clear, hurt-your-eyes bright days—when bug-bite constellations have faded from your arms and legs, and it’s still warm enough not to need a jacket, and the leaves are starting to turn?
I just need one of those, and boom: I’m all What am I doing with my life? and What have I done with my youth?
Soon enough, I’ll hit my stride, or at least be able to mostly ignore the vaguely unsettled feeling I’ll have until the snow starts to fly. You know, it’s funny: when I spent every September making my way north, unsure where I’d live or work or if I was really going to make it through another semester of grad school, I thought my shoulder-season misgivings were just my overactive imagination’s way of keeping me on my toes, perpetually ready for the next crisis. But now that I’m stationary, I sort of long for the unknown again.
I’m not cut out for that nomadic lifestyle; I worry too much. But I’m not sure I’m meant to stay put, either—same routine, day in, day out. I’m not sure what I am, and I sure don’t know where I’m going, but I guess I don’t need to know, at least not for now.
For now, it’s good enough that I’ve got a crockpot and a closet of colorful sweaters and a roof, albeit a slightly leaky one, over my head. I’ll make it through this shoulder season—one crisp, clear day at a time—and then I’ll figure out what the hell it is I’m doing.