Hello darkness, my old friend

I do love a summer picnic in the grass…one reason why I’m mourning the change in season.

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 need for shoes = my autumnal melancholy

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.

Occupational therapy for mommy…will someone make me a visual schedule for fall?

“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.”

Lookie, Emily, autumn looks like all this, plus squash.

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.

Sunny days, bare feet and dozing in the grass give way to crunchy earth, fall boots and cozy nights at home. (Charlie took this pic of his brother and me.)

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9 thoughts on “Hello darkness, my old friend

  1. Emily,
    I always love to read your blog! Tugs my heart, makes me laugh an sometimes cry! I love your occupational therapy reference today. I am happy to put together a visual schedule for you any time!!!

    • For reals, Brandi! I am so not kidding about needing the visual sched. Well, I’m feeling better about things today, but I am definitely calling you the next time I need something spelled out for me in a way I’ll process more easily. You are so cool. Big hugs to you.

  2. How wise to realize that fall carries its own baggage about who we should be and what we should be doing. I so appreciate your willingness to talk about that particular inner voice because she talks to me too. Down here in the South I’m hardly reluctant to bid farewell to summer. I can’t wait to say “adios” to air conditioning and sweating at all hours of the day. I’m looking forward to coolness in the morning and evening. And the freedom to go outside even in the middle of the day without melting! Fall helps our family to be outdoors. Also, I love the illustrations.

    • First of all, I so appreciate your appreciation of my artwork. Don’t be envious–I’m really an above-average stick-figure artist, so if your smiley face doesn’t look quite as practiced as mine, just keep trying.

      Secondly, what great insight that where we are, geographically, can impact how we feel about a change of season. I am suddenly remembering how much I despised summer when we lived in Cabo, and how desperately I anticipated October, for the very same reasons you embrace this time of year where you are. Your family being the outdoor lovers you are, I am newly hopeful for your blossoming outdoor life this autumn. I can’t wait to see pictures of your explorations. Or drawings…

  3. I just did my “closet transition”. Shorts gone, pants out. Sweaters hung, linen and white, packed. And it was a bit uneasy for me like it could be for you. I love Fall but I can completely identify with the feeling of digging in your heels at the thought of change. Once you and your family get into a routine, in a groove, just getting to enjoy life, no matter the season, it switches up on you. I guess just appreciating the moments of sandboxes and parks, jumping in crunchy leaves, creating snow angels, puddle splashing, etc is all I can suggest (by February, I will NOT have this rosy of an outlook btw)! Off to go stock up on some canned pumpkin for baking…that’s “Fall” behavior, right? 🙂

    • Woo boy, my closet is practically growling at me to make that transition and it feels like too overwhelming a move to take on at the moment. So impressed you’re all suited up for cool weather. I really appreciate the reminder to just enjoy the present groove of the season while it’s happening. I also appreciate the fact you’re plotting pumpkin-fueled baking! Maybe that’s the ticket for me–with as much time as I spend cooking every day, embracing fun fall foods could be the best idea to thrust me into the season. Thank you, Megs!

  4. Oh, how I could relate to your blog. I never wanted to let summer go and had a hard time understanding why people said they love autumn, other than the obvious relief from the blistering heat of Kansas City in the summer. Now that I am in Florida, I can live in sandals and enjoy life without freezing to death – which always made me have to get in bed just to get warm. I don’t mind sweating one little bit!

    • Kristi, thank you for coming out about being reticent about fall. I feel a lot less alone. I’m so, so delighted to know you’re happy in Florida, and I must say I love the idea of living in sandals all year. You’ve always been rather sunny, so I can definitely see you living it up down there. Thank you so much for writing!

  5. Pingback: A soundtrack to de-sulkify my fall « emily en route

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