Every Autumn, I have the same epiphany. I claim it as my favorite season all year long, but I always seem to forget that, deep within, I am cherishing much more than the warm colors and turtlenecks. The true power of this time of year is the undiscovered emotion it reveals, happiness and melancholy and tenderness and peace all unapologetically billowing within me. My reflective capabilities of the year before—when I was magnificently younger—are embarrassingly dwarfed by my current revelations. I reach for the limits of what a human can appreciate.
In the Autumn, I sit outside and absentmindedly stare, meditate in the cool breeze and smile at the soft shapes of nature meeting the geometric impositions of architecture. My eyes catch on every lonely object: the empty bench, the friendless squirrel, the bagel without cream cheese. I tear up at old couples moving slower than tectonic plates, seeing their unconcerned nature as a covetable symptom of time. As the daughter of an ecologist, this is the only time I take my upbringing seriously with a constant observational study of wholesome and imperfect people in a tired and impeccable environment. Every Truth exists at once. Nuance is unbounded. I conclude that the world is increasingly entwined and devastatingly not.
My typically tight and cynical mind blooms with fluidity and contemplation. The universe and I speak the same language; as that essence of life flows up, around, and through the world, I become a receptive vessel. I breathe it in with the crisp air, consume it through butternut squash soup and oat milk cappuccinos, absorb it as I tap on the bark of deciduous trees and dip my fingertips in the cooling water of streams. It trickles in through the soft laughs of friends and strangers, insulated by the warm lining of a dapper coat, thin beige gloves, and a dependable scarf of plaid and protection.
My chest has been chiseled through, or maybe pried open. Either way, the waning, aching weather slowly reveals my heart to the world in a terrifying and healing interaction. I am vulnerable to crying after a lovely phone call with my mother and to tearing up when a dog looks too much like my own. I am no longer one of those sensible people who can rationalize their way out of wondering and reminiscing.
My hypothesis is that this is an evolutionary adaptation of internal preparation—the pre-hibernation berry-feasting of bears. I absorb all the beauty that I can now, for I know my limitless wonder is not fixed. The year continues with the progressively monochromatic November and December and my entire being retracts, balling itself up. I shiver off feeling in the Winter, and shy away from all I possibly can, seeking only equally numbing comfort. Creativity is tilted, half of what it could be, as my energy is poured instead into keeping my limbs warm and my brain at minimum happiness, forgetting the cherished gift of dopamine and Vitamin D typically graced by the sun.
This clamped-up state becomes flattened in the Spring. A little more hopeful, sure, but also cynical. Annoyed. Things have stretched on a little too long. I am not trusting of the environment, recovering from the fatalistic intensity of the previous months. The world made promises and refused to keep them; my open mind slammed shut in the cold and was scared to produce more than tiny doodles of vines and three-dimensional boxes.
I am loosened in Summer, certainly, happy in a way that reflects the constant sun, the balmy nights, the promise of never-ending excitement. The world is on vacation, supported by a seemingly autonomous society that graciously holds picnics and festivals and parades so we can make the spark within us a tangible object. This seasonal joy, though, is a little false. Or, at the very least, quite surface level. I let the continuity of experiences take over, leading me from place to place. In the endless days, I forget to stop and listen.
So when Autumn returns, with its apples and ghosts and the gut-wrenching realization that I will never return to the joy I felt at eight years old, I remember to look about and to simply exist. I see Beauty in noses and cheeks tinged with pink, child-sized sweaters, and accidental reunions. I do crosswords and intentionally drink water and unintentionally love everything. As Autumn surrounds me, I can’t help but slow down and smile as the lovely particulars of the world are unveiled.