Fall came too soon this year. I mean, the fall equinox comes in late September like clockwork, but this year I’m not only puzzling over what to wear between hot and cold, but also feeling full-on pangs about the end of summer.
I want to hold onto the feeling of my bare feet in the dirt, the sun on my skin, chasing two boys in the sand, the days stretching out warmly in front of me. I want to not have to be anywhere at any particular time, to pack picnics, to launch into water, to wear sundresses, to be breezy.
Autumn is so many people’s favorite time of year that I start to wonder what’s wrong with me. The crispness, the leaves, the colors and the clearness are all undeniably beautiful. Still, deep down, I don’t feel ready for it this year. I’m uneasy. I feel scattered. Among other things, I just don’t want to put on my effing shoes.
The start of the school year hasn’t helped, but rather magnified the fact that transitions are hell in our house. My finely tuned four-year-old, who deeply experiences even the slightest gyrations, has given me a massive awareness of change’s impact in his short time on the planet thus far. When even the little things require mindfulness—moving from one activity to another, one place to another, one parent to another—the big things, like transitioning from one season to another, wham us into an unrecognizable state.
Sometimes, to help the kids feel secure in knowing what the day holds, thus avoiding the fallout of an unexpected curve ball, I draw visual schedules of the day. Right now, I wish someone would draw me a visual schedule of this time of year.
“Here, lookie, Emily,” some magical someone would say. “You will start wearing shirts with long sleeves. And shoes that cover your feet. And maybe even socks. You might sometimes wear a jacket. And you will cook more with greens and potatoes and apples. And squash. So much squash. You will be driving in your car a lot, because school is 20 minutes away. The sky will be darker much earlier, so you will begin to nestle in a lot earlier in the evenings and you might have a harder time waking up in the morning. And, this will seem odd, but you may even feel reluctant to fill your after-dark social calendar. It’s ok. You’re entering the season of darkness and it’s normal to feel this way. It just is.”
Yes, of course! The fall equinox is about the arrival of the darkness, the time of year specifically designated for going inward and for burrowing “underground” to enjoy a transformative hibernation. It’s dark outside for a reason: the darkness encourages us to move more slowly, to rest more, sleep more, to cook nourishing stews and cinnamon apples. To retire within to quietly transform. We do this all winter long, even through the winter solstice in December, which is about the return of the light. Until the spring equinox in March, we can be about gathering up energy from within to burst forth when the days again grow longer.
And so it strikes me that my own self-invented mental constructs about fall are the very things keeping me from embracing it.
Somewhere in my mind, I’ve believed that fall is the season of go-getting, the time when you buckle down and do stuff. In my head, this is a time of year when you have no excuse not to have it together. (Aside: That bleak time from January through March feels similar to me.) In my younger days, the arrival of fall meant the start of a new training cycle in the pool, when the short two-week break at the end of summer merged into long practices and sore muscles, long school days and late nights of homework. So. Tired.
Early fall has always meant to me that it’s time to get down to business. However, with my whole being, I wish to avoid this business of busy-ness.
Fresh off a fall equinox celebration with some wonderfully earthy women last night, I understand why I’ve been so resistant for the past few weeks: I’ve had it all wrong about fall. So, with new understanding, off I go to embrace the darkness, within and without; to take things more slowly, even amid the endless driving to and from preschool; and to hibernate a little more than usual in hopes of a quiet transformation energetically supported by the season. And, of course, to fall back in love with my boots.