It happens every September. That moment when I notice how the sky has taken on a brilliant blue hue that happens only in fall. The angle of the sun hits in a way that makes everything glow. The air takes on a crispness even when the temps are high.
It’s at that moment each year when my heart sings, full of joy I can hardly contain. Maybe it’s because I was born in October, but fall has always been my favorite season. The world seems at its most exquisite.
When I entered my 40s two years ago, I started viewing life in terms of the seasons, and it seems that now is the autumn of my life.
The childhood days of spring are gone. The newness of everything has come to pass. While I sometimes miss it, I don’t pine for the fragility of it all. In youth, we’re so raw, so vulnerable. Our tender souls must learn to weather the scrapes and bruises, the scars caused by friendships that don’t endure and first loves that lead to heartbreak. We learn to survive, to grow thicker skins, so we can endure the heat of summer without withering away completely.
I’ve always wanted to love summer. Aren’t we supposed to love summer? As a child I did, but that love affair seems to have gone by the wayside along with endless summer vacations eating Fritos and watching General Hospital.
Still I try to recapture those carefree days. By May each year, I’ve packed our calendar full of festivals, trips to the beach and hikes. I tell myself summer is fleeting, and we have to pack in the fun before the snow flies again. I find myself thrusting activities upon my family—activities they will enjoy no matter what because it’s summer, damn it, and summer is about fun in the sun, even if it burns you!
The resulting frenzy is similar to the way in which I threw myself into my 20s and 30s, packing it all in before the winter of old age had me in its grips. Those decades steamed with activity. Relationships flared up, only to burn to the ground. Life came close to boiling over with grad school, house buying, marriage, baby making, and career climbing. The calendar was always packed, yet I never felt like I was doing enough.
By the end of my 30s, I was as exhausted and cranky as I am on a scorching, sticky August day. My temper was always simmering from the constant heat.
When I hit 39, I finally accepted that what I needed and wanted wasn’t more activity. It was instead a reprieve from a life that had overheated. In similar fashion, when my annual “September moment” arrived, I accepted for the first time that I don’t particularly enjoy summer any more. I let go of the notion that I “have to” love summer, just as I’ve let go of so many other “have tos” in my life.
My 40s have an entirely different feel to them. A sense of urgency that life is slipping by too quickly remains, but gone is the urge to fill my days with endless activity. I no longer feel the need for a festival every weekend after which I find myself hot and tired and cranky.
Life seems better—and my time better spent—when I’m sitting comfortably on the patio, gazing at clear blue sky and the changing leaves or digging in the dirt, plotting how my garden will grow next year. Or simply listening to my daughter chatter away as she paints the sidewalk with the little girl from across the street.
Sure, winter is coming, but fall is Mother Nature’s last hurrah before the snow flies. The entire world bursts forth with luster—oranges, yellows reds and purples. Autumn’s dazzling display of color takes my breath away and makes me want to stand still gazing at its glory.
What I always seemed to forget when I was scrambling to make the most of summer is that summer doesn’t immediately turn into winter. First, we get to experience the cool brilliance of autumn. And what I never realized during the first decades of adulthood is that between young and old is this beautiful place called the middle.
I’m in the middle now, and fall is upon me.
Before winter comes, it’s time to follow Mother Nature’s lead, to burst forth with every color inside. No holding back, even wearing the bare spots with pride. When the snow flies, I want to look back and say, wow, that was the most brilliant fall I’ve ever seen.