Fall being what it is, the season of change, things ramp down on their cooling path to wintertime. There’s a lot of loss in the season.
The trees lose their leaves. We harvest the last of the garden’s bounty and then prepare the soil to rest until spring. Flowers go to seed and die back, also at rest. Almost overnight it feels like the sun just goes away; it’s either behind a blanket of clouds in the pouring rain, or spends the day tucked inside a pocket of fog that swirls around the harbour, undulating up and down the hill. Sometimes, at the top of campus, it seems to lay right atop the city like a billowy bed you could jump on.
The (relatively) carefree days of summer are gone, along with our freedom as we settle back into the routine of classes, assignments, and tests. And the warmth—the warmth that gave us license to shed most of our clothes and walk around half naked—that warmth is gone.
But somewhere under the blanket of leaves and fog, hope waits, and when we’re ready, we start to see it. Before those leaves fall they give one last burst of energy, a final display of firey red and orange to remind us that they had life, and that there is beauty in change. As the air chills, we reach under the bed or into the back of the closet, and sink our hands into the warm woolen sweaters and scarves that were unceremoniously shoved away at the first sign of sun in May. It’s like Christmas coming early, unpacking quilts you’d forgotten you had, unearthing a chunk of your wardrobe that’s been dormant and out of sight for the last five months.
The rituals of fall are also about comfort. Thanksgiving heralds the beginning of the Seasons of Consumption. Hearty meals help us pack on a few pounds of insulation to shield us from the coming cold. This comfort food is best shared in the relaxed company of friends; coming together around these tables cushions us from the isolation that staying indoors, shielded from the cold, can bring. And soon the celebrations of Halloween invite us to embrace the dark and revel in it, to dispel any lingering fear or trepidation that still hides there. In the cacophony of revelry, the darkness is drowned out, not silenced, but not free to scream so loud.
But for some, the cooling air and darker days herald the beginning of the end, and sometimes bodies begin to lose their fight. Where the old, infirm, or ill have managed to hang on through one last summer, now they see the darkening of the light. As their own light darkens, their will to fight loses its moxie. Disease sees an opening and grabs it, putting that final stranglehold on the body, bringing loss of a different kind: loss of a loved one.
Coming to terms with that loss is a part of life; it’s inevitable, something we will all, without exception, come up against. Which doesn’t change the fact that it sucks. It’s a twofold thing. We grieve the loss, or the impending loss, of a loved one to cancer or whatever evil has set upon their bodies. But we grieve for ourselves too, for the version of ourselves that existed when that wonderful person was still a part of this world. When they go, so does a part of us.
Then we move on. We have no choice but to move on. In time, we grow into ourselves without them, into selves that have their memories etched into our hearts, and we become whole new selves. As the acorns fall from the trees, the promise of a new life is planted. As the flowers die back, they drop their seed to hunker down and wait for warmth and light to return, to take root, to blossom again. And we find our way back.
The days are getting darker, but it really isn’t that much longer until we turn the corner (Sunday, December 21 actually), and the days lighten again. So pull on a big sweater, grab a friend, a mug, and a plate of shepherd’s pie. We’re sowing the seeds of hope, the seeds for spring.