It’s not fall yet. Fall starts on September 23rd. It’s on the calendar. In fact, it’s still pretty ungodly hot outside (and often inside). The days are still long. I don’t have to go back to school nor do I have kids who go back to school. Nothing of any substance has changed in my life since August.
And yet… something is different. Maybe it’s the first hint of color on the dried out hills. Maybe it’s something in the smell of the air or the way it’s suddenly breezier than it’s been in months. Maybe it’s the bounty at the farm market screaming of harvest season. Whatever it is, I’m starting to feel like fall.
It’s my favorite season and September is my favorite month. I don’t know why. I do love summer, and when I was a child I’d spend the summers with my parents on these epic 6-12 week long rambling vacations where we’d travel all over the country and camp and hike and swim. Those are some of my best memories. But there was something about coming home after being away so long, seeing friends again and having something resembling a routine (until I got bored of it again). Something about starting school again and feeling like there were so many possibilities of what I could learn and who I could be.
Whatever the reason, as soon as September comes, something starts stirring inside me. Maybe it’s just a nesting instinct. Like a pika, I know winter is coming and I need to make my home secure and stock it with food and warmth so I can safely ride out the cold months. But it’s also a creative instinct. I often start writing or crafting again. Making things, preserving things, cleaning things. I often have more energy and I start dreaming big dreams about my life and what I want to do.
Last night I made and canned ten jars of salsa and twenty of plum jam, and have been drawing up lists of of even more: pickled cauliflower, tomato sauce, pear-lavender jam, rose hip jelly, elderberry syrup, beer, hard cider, sauerkraut… I’ve started work on one of my long-neglected novels again. I’ve started exercising regularly again. I want to sew something, bake something, clean something, paint something.
The first whiff of autumn is like catnip for my soul, a much needed burst of joy just as summer is winding down. It usually manages to carry me into the holidays, with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas providing their own unique diversions. The problem is when the celebrations are over and we settle into the deep part of winter, when it’s cold and dark and our air quality is poor, so the sky and land both take on a grey quality and vigorous exercise is not recommended.
That is the time of year I should be being creative. Long evenings, plenty of time to write books and knit sweaters and redecorate the kitchen. I always say I’m going to, but then the seasonal depression kicks in and in reality I spend those three to four months curled up on the couch watching TV and eating potatoes. Everything feels difficult. Nothing feels worth the trouble. All my plans evaporate and I spent my days and nights just waiting for spring to get here.
Is this just a fundamental trait that I have that’s never going to change? Should I just accept that fall will always be my most optimistic, productive season and that winter will be a season of… Netflix? Or it something I can change somehow? Will I one day be able to roll the enthusiasm of autumn into building something real on those long winter nights, or am I always doomed to repeat my seasonal pattern?
It’s hard to say. I like to think that there’s something different this year. That this is the year, I’ll make a substantive change in my life and how I do things, something I can build upon for longer than just a few short months while the leaves are turning. It certainly feels different, but then it always does.
I don’t know if this is the year I’ll escape the trap of winter, or if I should even try. For now I’m just going try and take advantage of my current pre-autumnal euphoria and do what I can. There is fruit to dry and a garden to hoe and stories to write. While I still can.