Fall, to me, more than any other season, stirs up a sense of renewal. I recognize the obvious contradiction. While the world passes into dormancy, I’m dreaming of coming back to life, but if there’s one thing that working with Zadie Smith taught me, it’s that irony is always the smarter choice.
As the affinity for crunchy leaf walks, overpriced apple-picking reservations, and scarfs the size of blankets with a touch of PSL consumes pop culture’s descent into autumn, I have taken a more philosophical turn. I wonder if these seasonal totems or the feelings invoked by their fragrance in the air are renewing, too, in a sense. Something to identify with. Something to mark the passage of time, our place in it—and making the most of something. I mean, all it took was a few mom bloggers and the Gilmore Girls to rebrand fall from a season of death and dying to the most magical time of the year.
I consider the trees. It’s not hard to do here. The few deciduous trees that grace our mountains put on a spectacular show before they shed their beauty and turn inward, and it’s that redirection inside—toward the self—that has caught my attention.
I am learning about myself, the ways I strive to perform, to display my colors and wave them around in the breeze, if you will; and honestly, it’s exhausting. It makes me want to die, in the purely poetic sense. I have to step away from the outward show and the opposite course is inside. With the return to school in the midst of other life upheavals, I find myself considering… all the time. What? you ask. What am I considering? Oh, absolutely anything. I can’t move through the world without posing multiple questions at every step. I tried to order groceries online the other night, and as I clicked through our usual items, I felt more and more depressed. I’m sure there’s something to be said for skipping the tactile and social components of grocery shopping when I’m ordering pick-up online. But it was more than that. It was every little additional consideration I had to make because I’ve been told I bear these burdens of responsibility: Is it wrapped in plastic? Does it contain sugar? Can I spend the extra amount for organic? Why is the cost of living so exceedingly high and, since it’s up there, can I justify this jar of sun-dried tomatoes that used to cost $4 and suddenly costs $8?
There’s plenty to consider in this modern age. We have a wealth of information. The more knowledge there is, the more questions there are to pose, and perhaps our busy-obsessed society is a reflection on exactly this.
Modern science has also enhanced our understanding of forests and the ways trees communicate with one another through pheromones and mycelium. They are constantly information-sharing, whether to warn about possible dangers or shortages, or to pass along nutrients or make space for others to reach the light. But as trees begin to hibernate for the winter, their nutrient sharing slows down considerably. They come to rely less on the surrounding world and more from what they’ve stored up over the course of their growing months. They turn inward and literally slow down—understand how to do with less.
I am no advocate for ignorance. What a wonder to live in the information era, with everything available at our fingertips. And still, I feel a primal urge toward rest—that’s the renewal I want. To turn inward for a while and rely on all I’ve learned so far—to expect it to carry me through until spring’s blossoming without any need for anything extra. To turn off the show, to cast off pretense, to quiet everything down.
So the clichés start to make sense: the warm drinks, the hearty foods, the sugar-filled treats, and woolly clothes, all tucking us in. Autumn feels like something to fall into, and the older I get, the more it feels like a much-deserved rest.