It typically happens one day in early August. I step outside and notice that the light has a different quality, a subtle shift in shape and shadow, enough to let me know: Autumn is coming!
I am a Fall-o-phile, as are many of my friends. Every September 1st, my polyglot friends and neighbors Bonita and Silvano would arrange their refrigerator-magnet letters into the phrase, “Autumn in the Bay Area: Ausgezeichnet!” Yes, excellent.
To me, Autumn is an excellent melange of back-to-school clothes (green-and-black plaids, knee-socks, and Mary Janes), new binders and sharpened pencils, woodsmoke, pumpkin-flavored everything, maple syrup, spices, chilly mornings, crisp apples, and red-and-golden leaves.
Let others celebrate New Year on January 1. To me, Fall’s first fruits have always heralded new beginnings. The Jewish calendar supports my own calendrical rhythms. Rosh Hashanah (literally, “Head of the Year”) is the Jewish New Year that lands in September or October and is celebrated with apples and honey and fresh-start sentiments. It’s the first falling leaf on the autumnal Tree of Life, informing those who celebrate it that change is in the air and, if we’re paying attention and doing our inner work, potentially within us all.
That’s the exquisite nature of Fall. It brings an urgency unlike any other season. It speaks of new beginnings but also of time passing by. All of the joy, preciousness and fragility of life are captured in Autumn’s seemingly contradictory messages – a time of new beginnings even as we’re reminded that the hour is late. Open and unboundaried with a promise of renewal yet with a concurrent under-thrumming of yearning and existential angst. Harvest brings abundance but strips the branches bare.
Autumn says “do it now, before it’s too late.” And though I love all the trappings and symbols of Fall – the cider and the pumpkin patches and the cups of cocoa – what I love best about it is that sense of urgency. Autumn knows that life is precious; Autumn reminds us how swiftly the fresh green leaf yields to the pull of time, turns golden-red, then brown, then spirals down in its final pirouette to earth.
A perfect image, that: let the Autumn winds catch us dancing, to the very end.