Autumn is a season of change. The leaves explode into color, then fall. The botanical world closes up like an umbrella as flowers fade and foliage disappears. It is impossible not to feel a sense of sorrow as the vivid colors and exuberant growth of the summer season comes to an end.
When I think about the autumn in these terms, I do feel an acute sense of loss. But since I have spent so many years of my life in school, or with a child in school, in my mind the season remains the time of beginnings.
Who doesn’t remember the long, glorious days of childhood summers? When I was a kid, summer seemed to stretch forever, that glorious break from schoolwork and winter.
Of course, I was a child in central Alaska, where summer days did last much longer than they should. In the “Land of the Midnight Sun,” we enjoyed 24 hours of sunshine, day after day, through the summer. But summer was short — only July and part of August could count as summer — with a wet spring and a cool autumn elbowing in for room on either side. Autumn was followed by a plunge into an ice-cold, eight-month winter of darkness.
Time of Beginnings
But we didn’t mind summer ending since we were caught up in the preparations for the start of the school year. New clothes, new notebooks and pencils and pens, new winter coats and snow boots.
Autumn to me then was a time of beginnings. And this has remained the case, although I left Alaska and its schools decades ago. Since I continued attending school of one kind or another for most of my life, there was always that sense of renewed activity.
The supplies were different when I went to college, law school and graduate school, when I attended the docent program at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. But all began in the fall, and I came to associate this time of year with new energy and fresh starts.
Season of Change
And so I count on autumn to restart my projects every year, review and renew my dreams, figure out where I am and where I want to go. As the relaxing days of summer come to an end, the real work begins again. What will I learn this year? What will I write? What changes will I make in my life?
These questions always come up in the fall, as the cool winds freshen my spirits and prepare me to move forward with hope. And that is what autumn means to me: the forward movement, the new challenges, and, most of all, the hope.