October 26, 2010

Maybe It's Me: L'automne or, If I Wanted Monotony

One of the many reasons I love living in northern New England is the seasons. All four are like entirely unique worlds, filled with vastly different sights, smells, sounds, and tastes; each one physically, emotionally, and mentally altering those of us lucky (or cursed) enough to experience them as the anomalous entities that they essentially become.

Yet, that balance of familiarity and contradictory foreignness each season presents is beautiful and an adventure that’s both admired and feared. How one winter can be bitter and destructive, and the very next be so mild that it leaves people constantly on edge nervously awaiting something awful is part of the charm of living in this area of the world. The summers too are never predictable. One summer could be rainy and cold, leaving both our attitudes and crops soggy; when nine months later, a new summer arrives where both the humidity and temperature never dip below triple digits.

And the genuine physical rebirth that spring yearly brings as flora fights its way through mud and skeleton trees is the true definition of life; meanwhile autumn is the very antitheses of that, representing decay but in such a symphonic, glorious manner.

That’s why I admire winter and summer; spring and autumn – for those very sharp, very awe-inspiring unparalleled extreme contrasts found only in the natural world.

After all, if I wanted monotony I would live somewhere else.

Despite my travels and immersion in other cultures, I have no idea how people survive it – the sameness day in and day out (just as I’m sure they question our sanity with the constant inconsistency of our geography). I just can’t imagine Easter, July 4th, Halloween, and Christmas all looking and feeling exactly the same. While I don’t know firsthand, I’m sure the mood during these yearly holiday landmarks are different; as are some of the sights, smells, sounds, and tastes, but those are the things that are easily manipulated and manufactured by mankind to duplicate what we in the northeast get naturally.

I’m not sure I could live without the passing of seasons.

It’s not a cultural or geographical attachment that I have with our extraordinary seasons; maybe it’s me, but it’s also been a morbidly fascinating way to not only watch time pass, but to compare time too, as well. After all, simplistically speaking, life cycles really are the same whether you’re an apple tree or a girl.

First comes spring, a season of growth. A seed is planted, a sprout pushes its way through, and with the right mix of nature and nurture, a thought grows into thing.

Summer is the span of time where these things are in their height of health, beauty, and development.

Then there’s autumn, which is the quintessential manifestation of change itself. It represents maturity, and even the early stages of decline.

And finally, winter, where things once bursting with life have decayed to almost nothing.

The parallel to our lives is perfect, albeit immensely depressing.

Physically speaking, I know I’m at the very pinnacle of my summer season. Metaphorically, though, I’ve never felt more attached to season than I did to autumn this year.

Despite it just being my favorite time of year, there was something exemplary about it. Autumn paralleled me as a thinking, feeling person more than any other season I’ve been blessed enough to experience and I wanted to capture it on paper before years went by and I lost the deeply rooted connection to this particular fall (because, as you now know, no two seasons here in New England are ever the same).

There was this bizarre struggle between the seasons. Summer wanted to stay and autumn was ready to explode in color. Crimson leaves peppered the trees as early as the beginning of August, where temperatures in the nineties periodically sprung up until almost October. As a result, we had the most strange autumn where trees didn’t turn in a natural progression as they usually do, where the green fades to reds, oranges, and yellows; which then fades to brown; which then fall off the trees.

At the beginning of autumn half the trees went instantly into peak foliage, while the other half was still a dark, summery green. In the middle of fall, a third of the trees were completely bare, a third were in peak foliage, and a third were still as green as they are in July. And at the end – even pushing into November – half the trees were still brilliantly colored, while the other half looked as barren as they do in January.

I feel as if autumn was as confused as me this year. It, like me, had no idea what it was doing with itself despite having decades (and centuries and millennia’s) of practice. In didn’t seem like it was quite ready to give up the fruitful summer, and yet it eagerly and sporadically erupted with unmatchable bouts of beauty that only the hues of autumn bring.

Dragging its feet in one instance, recklessly diving in head-first in other.

Autumn personified my very emotional state this season. Not ready to let go, but totally ready to move on. Not sure that I want to give up something that was so productive and meaningful, but ready to show the world the other rich talents that are inherent within me and are going to come out sooner or later. Imploding vs. Exploding. Restraint vs. Liberation. Self vs. World.

A friend once told me that from time to time I reminded him of a deer standing on the side of the road. “Beautiful and wild and confident, but in that moment just a little lost.”

Much like fall seemed to be this year.

Winter will be here soon, and I’ll settle in for a much more stable, consistent, and quiet emotional and mental state. Where things will be a little less colorful, a little less untamed.

Until spring, that is. When an entirely new state of confusing rejuvenation will begin.

After all, if I wanted monotony I would live (and be) somewhere (someone) else.