Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Fall Leaves and Timepieces

When I was younger, I used to struggle with a seemingly simple question: “What is your favorite season?”

I never had trouble with the other get-to-know-you questions adults would ask us kindergartners; I had an ever-changing but always-certain lineup of favorite colors, and my favorite number was unequivocally five. But when I said my favorite season was winter, I never felt like I was telling the whole truth.

Because the truth is—I’ve always loved season changes more than any one season itself. I scan the weather forecast every November, waiting to frolic in the first snowfall of the season. Each springtime, I revel in the freedom of venturing outside without a coat for the first time in months. And to me, stepping on the first really crunchy leaf of fall is one of the pinnacles of the human experience.

Now that I’m older, I’ve come to the conclusion that my obsession with the changing of seasons is tied to my obsession with the passage of time. For years I’ve anticipated the future—first with a fear of adulthood, then with excitement for my career, then with a balance of both. For years I’ve mourned the fact that I can never return to the past. For years, I’ve tried to wrap my mind around my own mortality, the fact that I, along with everyone else who has ever lived, will die.

Each season shift is a reminder that time passes, not just in our personal lives, but in the world at large. Planet Earth will continue to orbit the sun, countries will continue to progress, and science will continue to march forward and answer questions we don’t yet know to ask. And the incredibly insignificant hiccup in history that is my life will progress as well, hopefully full of adventures and achievements and good friends and fulfilling work. It’s exhilarating.

I ponder time—the way it’s simultaneously an arbitrary measure establish by humans and an inevitability dictated by nature—whenever the seasons transform. But these thoughts especially occupy my mind every September, which marks the best season shift of them all. If I looked hard enough, I could probably find some kind of morbid metaphor in the fact that so many people—the majority of my Twitter feed, every Pumpkin Spice Latte fanatic, most of all me—find such joy in a time of death. But personally, I never feel more vibrant than in the fall. The autumn leaves and breezes sing with the anticipation of all that is in store: cooler weather, a semester of hard work followed by a blissful winter break, all the best holidays back-to-back.

For me, early fall is all about anticipating the immediate future, appreciating the present while it lasts, and reminiscing on past autumn and winter memories. There’s no better time to be alive.

***

I’ve talked before about how I’m a relentless seasonal reader, seeking out spooky, atmospheric books for fall and light contemporaries for summer. But for me, being a seasonal reader means not only reading stories that match the mood of the weather outside, but connecting in a roundabout way to my past self.

When I pick out reading lists—a task I complete meticulously, months in advance—I look not only for typical seasonal titles, but also for books that relate in some way to what I read at the same time last year.

See, when I’m reading, I like to immerse myself into the book’s world entirely. It’s one of the reasons why I’m a relatively slow reader compared to other bloggers, one of the reasons why I love fall and the richly atmospheric settings it brings. When I’m reading, the book becomes an extension of my own life. The story influences my mood. Sometimes my dreams seem to process the plot of the book I’m reading rather than my actual reality.

Therefore, reading a book by the same author, in the same series, or about the same topic as a book I read in the past feels a bit like rewinding my real life to one year, two years, three years ago. I get to replicate a sliver of what I experienced in a time I’ll never really get to live again.

It makes sense that I see literature as a connection to history. After all, written words can quite literally be a way to communicate, albeit one-sidedly, with people who lived hundreds of years ago. But is it normal that I cling to modern books as a lifeline to my personal past?

They say a book can take you anywhere. I love traveling to far-away lands and fantasy kingdoms through literature, but sometimes I most appreciate being transported to a more familiar place and time.

Do other readers feel the same way?

***

Seasons themselves symbolize the future. But seasons and the reading choices they inspire symbolize the past.

Every time the seasons change, I’m faced with the seemingly-conflicting urges to cling to the past, to feed the thrill of the future, and to enjoy the present weather in the moment. Most days, I aim for a combination of the three.

Past. Present. Future. The seasons can symbolize all of the above. It may be an instance of symbolism too messy and personal to analyze in an essay. Or maybe it’s not. All I know is I never explored that particular literary device in high school. In fact, I’m not quite certain how my feelings regarding the symbolism of seasons fit into my English education, which taught me to both stick to a clear point and look for complexity and nuances. Maybe I’m right; maybe I’m not.

But I’m not in high school anymore.

3 comments:

  1. I love this. I love every single word of this post. Finally, someone put into words the feeling I've had for years: I don't have a favorite season because like you, my favorite time of the year is the in between.
    It's so easy, now that I think about it. But when you're presented with four choices, not everyone will think to create a fifth one.
    You write beautifully by the way<3
    Thank you for such a lovely post that I didn't I needed!<3

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  2. When I clicked on this post, I did not for one second expect something so profound, well written, and relatable. My favorite season is, most likely, Spring, but I cannot say how much season changes excite me. It's kind of crazy to think that the world cyclically changes itself season after season, year after year as time goes on. And we definitely change so much. As much as I love being transported to fantasy kingdoms and dystopian future governments, just rereading a book from my childhood takes me back to being young and effervescent with the entire world for the taking. This is such a beautiful post :D

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  3. Oh my heavens, what a BEAUTIFUL post. I wasn't expecting to read something so touching, but here it is! I tried to add something or put my thoughts relating to what you wrote into words, but nothing sounded right. I know exactly what you mean, though. There's something about reading all-too familiar words that have become part of your identity that feels welcoming; homey, even. It's certainly one of my favorite parts of the "transition" periods in between seasons. :)

    - Emily @ forthebookish.com

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