What Composes Autumn

The Northern Hemisphere is almost halfway through autumn, but it only starts feeling like autumn to me sometime in October. And then, being as I live in Chicago, it feels as if winter is mere moments away.

This autumn, in particular, has been interesting. The feel to it is very much as though it is nearly gone, but I am present for so many individual moments. It’s surreal to feel massive pressure about the changing of the season, while also so slowed down.

I think this is happening because of the things that make “autumn” a thing for me (in a way that spring, summer, and winter simply are not). And, this year, those things taken together are giving me an awareness of autumn, my favorite season, like I haven’t had in a decade or so. To say I’m grateful would be a massive understatement.

Like most people, my “in my head” visions of “autumn” are neatly summed up in this photo by my friend Marielle Shaw.

But the reality is that autumn is so much more.

It’s Halloween and all the candy I’ve stopped buying because no one ever comes to my door. It’s the fact that, by November I’ll have lived a total of three Halloweens in my current neighborhood, but it’s only approaching this year’s that I’ve realized how utterly enthusiastic the rest of the neighborhood is about the holiday.

It’s not the vibrant leaves in Marielle’s picture above, but the leaves in the picture below.

Autumn is the harvest. It’s apples, hot apple cider, butternut squash, and the return to root veggies and leafy greens in my CSA.

Because it’s the harvest it’s, yes, pumpkin spice everything, even though I consume almost none of it. What do I consume? It’s delicious. I’ll destroy a loaf (or more) of my (mom’s) pumpkin bread or all the pumpkin pie ever. Or I’ll experiment with recipes for different versions.

It’s Thanksgiving and throwing my home open to folks who wish to come, whatever their reasons. It’s discovering just how much Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and just how uncomfortable the history of Thanksgiving is at times. It’s about accepting that I grew up taught insidious things about “Pilgrims and Indians” in school, and taught at home that it’s all about food, fun, joy, and gratitude. It’s about trying to honor that second teaching, and not perpetuate the first one.

Last year, it also became about NaNoWriMo and how much that mattered to me. It was giving NaNo updates and promising posts that I forget I promised. It’s about scrounging for guest posts and being utterly moved by the post I got last year, and excited about the ones I have and may get this year. NaNo will be my November for a long time, I think. With big cups of tea, “beer sprints” with Sarah, and hot apple cider.

Autumn is also about considering winter and what the cold season will look like. This year, it looks like wondering if these two assholes will give us trouble and wondering if they’re going to need little booties to protect their feet from salt and hidden glass shards. And then wondering at myself for even considering such things…

Autumn isn’t yet making decisions about what the new year will bring, or what I want to accomplish in it, but it’s when I start rolling ideas around in my head, or on paper, or occasionally on the blog.

This year, the addition of those two adorable, fuzzy-butted family members forces me to go out on a walk 1d4 times daily and really take in the little pieces of fall (leaves, crisp air, rain, cold) while NaNo and winter and this blog have all forced me to spend a lot more time considering the future…

I haven’t come to any conclusions, except that if I have to put shoes on my dogs I’m going to laugh and cry a little inside, but the experience has been amazing.

I find that, overall, gratitude is what composes autumn.