I must confess upfront that autumn has always been my favourite season.
I used to think that it was because of the softer sunlight, fields of green and gold, forests ablaze in vibrantly coloured leaves It might have been the weightier bracing air ripe with the mingling scents of pine cones, apple cider and smoke from wood fires.
Perhaps it was the sturdy root vegetables, pumpkins and hearty stews, or daylong hikes on well worn trails winding peacefully through woodlands and meadows. Then again, the sight and smell of abundant vineyards and orchards bursting with their luscious harvest also speak of autumn to me.
With cool days and evenings cooler still, fall weather is neither sweltering hot like summer, nor brutally frigid like winter. No bundling up in layers of clothing that impede movement or scarves that stifle conversation. Like Goldilocks’ search, autumn ends up feeling ‘just right’.In the northern hemisphere, the waning days of summer have long heralded the arrival of a new school year, replete with the excitement of seeing old friends and meeting new. Whether five or fifteen, the primary concerns remain which teacher(s) we’ll have and whether we’ll be in classes with our closest friends.
It isn’t until later that any thought is given to the actual subjects we’re to study in the coming year. School is our job, the instructors our bosses and coursework our daily tasks. We do our best to conquer concepts and equations, and the next fall we start anew.
The pattern continues as we start university or training or entry-level jobs: master the subject matter and requisite skills, enhance our experience and ratchet up our repertoire, and eventually we’ll begin again.
When summer has faded and the days shorten, I personally start to crave a different challenge, a new gauntlet thrown down and lying there just begging to be gathered up.
When I met my future husband? Autumn, of course. When we became engaged a few years later? There was never any doubt as to when the wedding would take place. Fall was the only time of year I’d entertain, preferably midway through, all the better to capture the season at its peak.
In return, we were blessed with a gloriously sunny day: cerulean sky dotted with puffy marshmallow clouds, vivid crimson, mandarin and gold leaves swaying in the gentlest of breezes, comfortable temperatures that beckoned wedding guests out to the brick walkways and lush gardens of the stately mid-nineteenth century home where our reception was held.
To my great joy, both our son and daughter celebrate birthdays in the autumn months. Two of the dogs and four of the cats that have graced our lives over the years joined our household in the fall. A tally of my employment record reflects the start of some seven new positions or assignments (thankfully through promotion or recommendation by higher-ups) and two subsequent career changes during this time of year.
Autumn has been very good to our family, but it isn’t always so. Three of those pets also departed this world late in the calendar year, and we’ve had our share of sad or difficult news arriving then as well. National horror at the hands of terrorists on a sunny September day brought personal and professional loss and change which affected me deeply, the repercussions echoing still.
So it is that over the years I’ve come to appreciate the deeper meaning in my favourite months of the autumnal season, beyond the new, the different and the challenging: change.
Ironic, isn’t it? The time of year most closely associated with winding down, of crops reaped and leaves mulched and the physical world slowly decaying as it prepares for winter, is also the time when so many of us fill that annual itch to stretch and grow and start afresh.
We hope that continual change will equate to growth, and in the end, it does. Whether positive and welcomed or negative and dreaded, we eventually do find ourselves growing as a result of all that is new, different, alien and foreign.
Hard-wired for continual change as a species? I tend to think so. Soft-wired for change through year upon year of new beginnings? So it would seem.
A writer and American expat living in the Netherlands with her husband and two teens, Linda pens articles on expat life and blogs at Adventures in Expat Land sharing the good, the less good and the just plain odd with a twist. She is also a co-author of the recent bestseller Turning Points: 25 Inspiring Stories from Women Entrepreneurs.
You may also follow Linda’s adventures on Twitter @in_expatland.