I like autumn, and I always have. The way it feels, and the way it smells. I like its cool, brisk breezes, and I’m pleasantly surprised by those few days when summer returns to pop its head in the door one last time to say hi before leaving town for a while.
And, I love the first time snowflakes hit the window later in the season. It doesn’t usually hang around; it’s just there to remind us of what’s to come. Like when I was a little kid, the first sight of snow is still something I love, and it brings back so many fond memories of my childhood; playing in it, walking to school in it, or just watching it blanket the ground, turning everything a bright white.
In general, I like the changing of all the seasons, but for some reason, summer turning to fall has always been the one I enjoy most. I can’t put my finger on it, since I love aspects of all the seasons we experience in the Upper Midwest. And make no mistake, we get four distinct seasons here, from intense heat with stifling humidity in the summers, to dangerous, bone-chilling temperatures and wind chills in the winter.
But this autumn, which officially starts tomorrow, feels different, not by way of the weather, but in every other way I can imagine.
Not unlike those of the recent past, the season will begin much like the last one ended, in this case warm, sunny and summerlike. In fact, if you didn’t know better, you could go through this first week of autumn and not even know summer had officially ended around here, except the fact that some trees have already started to turn, their leaves now golden or auburn.
No, this autumn feels different because the two seasons prior to it arrived and left differently, vastly different than in all the years I can remember. And, they’ve left us different – changed -- as well. The past six months have been one big season of uncertainty, new and often annoying habits and routines, isolation, anger, anxiety, fear and conflict.
This year, autumn feels different because we couldn’t – or at least didn’t – do so many of the things we like, want or need to do during spring and summer. We saw fewer people, we went fewer places, and had did fewer of the things we love to do; the things that make spring and summer special: holidays, family celebrations and milestones, or simply shaking hands, hugging or getting together on the front porch or in the back yard.
And, it’s looking like that’s how our autumn will be this year. Fact is, it has already started, with schools and universities trying to operate under challenging (at best) circumstances, and families, businesses and entire communities wondering when it will end, when we can be “us” again, doing what “we” do in the way we like to do it.
I feel bad for kids and young adults (our kids, Kate and Will, are 24 and 20) who are supposed to be experiencing the excitement and fun of their next stages in life but feel hamstrung by circumstance and risk.
I worry about those who are older, and how they are coping, especially when a birthday or holiday comes and goes without the tradition or fanfare it deserves, or a grandchild is born that they can’t see and hold.
I also think about those who have other challenges that have made the past spring and summer so difficult for so many reasons: physically, mentally, emotionally and financially.
For people like me, an “in-betweener,” my emotions and attitude fluctuate, but in general, I feel OK. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of “shitty” days, and I’m sure there will be more to come, but overall, I’m healthy and able to make the best of the situation, so no one needs to worry about me.
I don’t feel angry taking precautions because I do believe it helps. On the other hand, I understand the anger and frustration of those who don’t want to live under such circumstances.
For the record, I haven’t met one person – myself included -- who has said they want what we’ve been going through, but let me know if you find someone who does because I’d really like to know what’s going through that person’s mind. In that respect, we are (to use a phrase that has quickly become a cliché) “all in this together,” even if we are apart, physically and sometimes, philosophically.
I’m not here to preach or to re-plow a field that’s been cultivated innumerable times over the past six months, and two seasons of our collective life. I just want autumn back, the autumn I knew growing up; one like I enjoyed as recently as last year.
And, while I know I can’t have that this year, I will do whatever I need to do to make the best of this season, and to protect myself, my family and those around me so we can enjoy the next autumn – and all the seasons moving forward – in the way they are meant to be enjoyed.
Stay safe. Help one another, especially those who really need it. And, know that better days are ahead.
© 2020 David Haznaw