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For most of my life, I have identified as a summer child.
Warm summer days, cloudless and perfect, were what I craved.
Of course, I still appreciate this. There is an air of ease and simple joy that arises during this time. School is out. Plants and animals come out to play. All around, life moves at a sweet, untethered pace like a melting popsicle, which can be either fast or slow, or both.
It is a sort of surface-level happiness, similar to a perfectly raked white sand beach with no rocks or current pulling you in any particular direction. Summer turns life into a blissfully lukewarm, stagnant kiddie pool. As I look back at it now with a still fond lens, it represents a naively sunny disposition that I enjoy, but know no longer serves me.
I still love the sun and, in all honesty, I still desire the bright energy it gives, but as I’ve gotten older, I can now recognize the undeniable significance of fall and what it means.
Fall is change.
Fall is the hard stuff. It is apologizing when we aren’t wrong. Facing our demons and choosing to love them. Fall is the in-between moments when we have to sit in the discomfort of ourselves. It’s the silent breath we take before the leap into the next phase. It is when we are forced to unpack the dark and dirty things we have stowed away. Or sitting next to a frost-gilded window that asks us to answer the question we’d boxed up for the summer: who are we? What do we want our story to be? How are we going to get there?
The chill nipping at your side is a physical manifestation of the emotional apprehension; your hair follicles stand at attention as if they already know the next chapter is coming and they’re stretching out to see it. Maybe that’s why it’s called chicken skin? Indicative of both the way it looks and the chicken-scared human presenting it.
There is a long road along a reservoir where I grew up that is dotted with trees every few feet. They stand there, year after year, serving as alarm clocks for the onset of fall.
As they do their seasonal outfit change, the leaves start to curl within themselves and the bright green color recedes from their flesh. They age. We age. Like a snake shedding its skin, they must relinquish the old parts of themselves.
I used to view the change in color on the leaves as something dull and sad, but I thought on it more recently and I remembered the few weeks before the leaves turned the color of burnt pie crust, the few days when the beards of these trees became marbled in all the tones of fire—yellow, orange, red, and the colors there are no name for besides pure awe. I know now what it meant to teach me. Yes, there is beauty in the budding greens and warm waters of our summer, but it is in the fall when we get to see the true depth and range of a thing.
Fall is the brooding, cinnamon-scented, grey-faced stepsister of summer, and like the tireless hours of training before a big show, fall flies under the radar and goes without praise, but it is here in the fog and misty rains where the real magic happens. Where slowly, and with great deliberation, the caterpillar can become the bright winged butterfly we all love to marvel at. To get there it must wrap itself in a hard casing and, literally, liquify every part of itself. And then, once everything is broken and changed, it can rearrange into the new being it was meant to become.
But all the same, that is the whimsical edge I have found in fall.