I moved to Michigan from California when I was four years old. I got a new house, a new school, and, eventually, some new friends. But perhaps best of all, I got new seasons. Four of them, to be exact.
For me, the arrival of fall brightened the corners of life in an unexpected way. Suddenly the suffocating shroud of hot summer air was lifted. The blinding white sunlight gave way to more sensitive amber hues. All parts of nature seemed to point toward hidden meanings and possibilities. Red, orange, and yellow leaves clung desperately to the trees before becoming a rich mixture of brown, somehow representing the essence of earth itself, a kind of life force emerging through decay. The air was sharper and more urgent. The world smelled like possibility. And when someone came in from outside, that magical woodsy tree scent clung to them, somehow making them more human and more animal at the same time. More alive. Autumn is the season of feeling.
Autumn brings previews of the cold bleakness of the year's end, and with it, time to work on one's inner life.
There's nothing like experiencing the changing of seasons over the course of a year. People in parts of California and the South seem to believe they have seasons, too, but the changes are so subtle that it's almost impossible to tell a difference in the weather from April to October. Watching these four extremely distinct contrasting atmospheric edges melt into one another as a kid in Michigan, and today from my home in the New York City, is a beautiful ritual. Not every day is meant to feel the same, or be 82 degrees and sunny.
I've taken to comparing the seasons to the times of day: Sunrise is spring. Midday is summer. Twilight is fall. Nighttime is winter. I hate mornings, and in general don't really enjoy the sun. Therefore, spring and summer—the morning and midday equivalents—are my least favorite parts of the year. Sunset expresses the golden chilled hues of autumn perfectly, and night is the cold desolate darkness of winter. Autumn brings previews of the cold bleakness of the months ahead, and with it, time to work on one's inner life. Spring may be the season of rebirth, at least in terms of the non-human realm of the natural world, but for the human self, autumn seems to encourage inner rejuvenation. As a chill sets into the air, I feel a natural inclination to withdraw into myself, and enjoy rebuilding the indoors of my mind and surroundings.
The cold weather justifies the desire to stay in by a fireplace or space heater and just work on the self, a time to deeply think about things and turn physical inactivity into internal mental action. To me, these colder months always present a tremendous opportunity—a sense of almost unlimited possibility, and a kind of unfounded and extremely hopefully optimism, all pointing toward inspiring new ideas about life and creation. If the flower is reborn in spring, the human spirit is reborn in fall.
I know that many people don't agree with my take on the seasons. Some, in fact, believe the exact opposite is true. But for me, long winter nights always held more appeal than outdoor summer activities. There is something too bright, too glaring, too exposed about the spring and summer months. There is no shadow, no mystery, no unseen realms of potentiality, no gray skies to match up with my inner shadows, where the imagination can step in and fill in the blanks with outlandish visions and ideas. There is no room in the summer for the melancholy feelings of despair inside us, and in fall, I find an outer recognition of my inner experience. It's deeply affirming and meaningful to have Mother Nature herself reach out and say, "You're not alone. I feel this way, too."
Just as we listen to a sad song to make audible the sensitive feelings inside us, the ambience of autumn confirms the wistful aspects of our souls. The moody melodies of minor key months like October and November legitimize our sullenness as a worthwhile and necessary texture in humanity—an appropriate variant of the dynamics of our spirits.
Autumn has a beautiful way of substantiating these lower moods and reflecting them in the environment as something vital and true. Darkness is as crucial to us as light—we can't appreciate the sun without the shadow, or spring without the fall. Remember that and embrace your inner autumn and the feelings it encourages.
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