The lightning bugs are gone, the mornings are cool and foggy, and I saw a little girl waiting for the bus at the end of her driveway when I was driving to work . . . it's autumn.
There's something about this time of year, and I can't quite put my finger on it, but it makes me sad. As a painfully late bloomer, I never really looked forward to school, but that isn't really it.
Part of me, a very small part, almost wishes there could have been a separate school for all of us late bloomers. At least then we would have stuck together. I'm not the only one out there that had a horrific adolescence, am I? Not because of a traumatic event, not because I was Phoebe Buffay living in a box in New York . . . no, I just had a growth-spurt and was cursed with being born in a Bad Fashion era. Trust me, for a five foot six, 95 pound 12-year-old . . . that was enough. Even I thought I looked like hell. Why did the 80's and 90's have to be the spandex and tight Jordache jeans period?Despite having a horrible school experience from grades 7 - 9, my sad feeling this time of year has nothing to do with school. As far as I can remember, those first couple of days when I look outside at 8:00 at night and the sun is gone, almost gone, or long gone . . . my heart breaks a little bit. I think about Halloween and orange plastic pumpkins and my Cookie Monster costume. Or walking to elementary school on freezing cold mornings and watching my breath purl in front of me--sometimes I turned my head to the side or blew out of the corner of my mouth so I wouldn't walk through it. I don't know why. Because it looked like smoke, maybe?
I think about the park at the end of our cul-de-sac, and how come winter I knew it would look like a parade of the dead. Lonely skeletons with their heads bent together like a huddle of cadaverous bullies. The funny thing is: I was never scared of those trees. Or rather, I was not scared to go outside at night. Which is not to say I would have gone for a jaunt through the park at midnight.
So what is it? What makes me look outside and see a sky that is so crisp it sucks the air out of my lungs? Some days in Ohio, especially in autumn, there is such an Oregonness in the air. I've had trouble describing before. I wonder if I'm just feeling homesick?
Could be, because I am, but I don't think that's it. There's a poignancy in the Fall that almost overwhelms me. Wearing sweaters for the first time in months. Pulling out seasonal decorations for the first time in months. You're doing things for the first time in a long time, but still it's the beginning of the end.
The End of the Year. Perhaps because so much of my life has revolved around school, I don't think of "the calendar year" as January 1 through December 31. The "calendar year" to any schoolkid is September through June. From June to September is FREEDOM!
Is that it?
I think it might be, but still . . . Still! It's more than that. As a kid it meant homework, lockers that smell of lunchmeat and wet coats, boring classes, the never ending nag of "Do well in school or you won't get into college and your life will be ruined." Now as an adult it's the culmination of the memory of schooldays added to the winding down of summer in exchange for a slow winter of crapola weather, tight pants from lack of activity and home cooked meals, jeans in a constant state of dampness, bulky winter coats and inside-out umbrellas.
Autumn is definitely bittersweet to me . . . I maintain that it is my favorite season, certainly it is the most beautiful, but some days have an emptiness to them, and I just feel so S.A.D.*
I can't decide if was making a joke there . . . I really do feel down, but I've always thought S.A.D. was bunk. It can rain for weeks on end and it doesn't bother me at all. But in the autumn, there is a piercing stillness in the orange air and hazy mornings that stills my heart. The brilliant red leaves cling bravely, waiting, breathing their last frozen breaths until at last, unable to carry on, they let go. I think the world is dying.
And then there are those evenings that happen every once in a while when everything, even the air, looks like it's coated with gold, and you feel like you're swimming in a flaxen sea of sighing maple leaves. Everything seems to hang in the air longer than it should, and when you look down upon yourself you expect to see glitter on your skin.
*S.A.D. is a very common term in Oregon, but I haven't heard it much since I moved to Ohio. In case you're not familiar with it: Seasonal Affective Disorder.