Loving the season of sad

by Kristin on September 19, 2011

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Photo by K. Tennant

Just as we were buying the last peaches of summer, Jason was also making the first chicken noodle soup of fall. It’s such an odd time of year, when the fresh joys of one season are brought up flush against the cozy yearnings of the other.

I always feel melancholy this time of year, and yet it’s probably my favorite season. As I was taking a walk the other day, the conflicting emotions intensified: sadness and contentment; nesting urges tinged with restlessness; feelings of loss as well as gain. How can I so intensely love a season that makes me so sad? It sounds a bit like an abusive relationship, doesn’t it?

As I thought about it more, though, I wondered if our mixed feelings about fall say something about about human nature—that we understand the need to embrace endings as well as beginnings. We inherently realize that certain things have to die to make way for new things to be born. Embracing fall is a way of embracing that process, or at least giving it permission to get on with its melancholy business.

Farewell, weeds

A friend was recently talking about how his yard got away from him this summer. There were certain corners and certain weeds that didn’t seem worth fighting at this point in the year. He took comfort in knowing that the winter would kill off all those unwanted invaders who had crept into his life when he wasn’t looking, but the cold couldn’t kill the big oak tree or lilac bushes he cared most about. Sure, the weeds would probably return eventually, but they would have to start over. He would be given a chance to start over, too.

Is that how we feel about fall? It’s a chance to stop the struggle and the effort, and to just give in to a cycle we can’t control—not relenting in defeat, but in relief, and hope? Maybe it’s a time to realize that some of what we’re clinging to doesn’t matter the most, and the things that do matter the most will survive the winter.

Each season gives way into something new

A month ago we helped some of our closest family friends pack up a truck so they could move their life a couple states away. It felt like an end of a season of friendship, for sure, but also the beginning of one, that involves our daughters writing letters (real ones, mailed in envelopes!) and Skyping as a way to stay connected.

This past weekend, our two families met halfway between our cities for some fall camping. At night, we gathered around the campfire in warm jackets, hats and scarves, absorbing warmth as we caught up on our lives. During the day, hiking on the dunes, the sun was warm enough that we rolled up our jeans and tied our sweatshirts around our waists. It is without question that in-between time of year—a time of transition, bittersweet memories, and hope for the new growth that’s to come.

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  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com ed cyzewski

    Life is this series of partings and transitions,and I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that. I’m such a stick in the mud. And yet fall is so wonderful and pretty. The word “crisp” comes to mind. One thing that gives me comfort is preserving fruit and veggies from the summer for the winter. I can’t explain it, but a few days before we moved I was stirring up batches of strawberry jam. I needed it. It was like preserving a taste of summer would help me in the dead of winter when the trees are bare and wind is howling.

  • http://www.alise-write.com Alise

    What gorgeous thoughts!

    I think you’re right. Fall gives us permission to grieve in a way that we rarely allow ourselves. We are terrible at mourning, but it seems inevitable during autumn. So even though it’s a time of sadness, we can come away refreshed.

  • http://jenniferluitwieler.com Jennifer

    I find myself in that place so often and it almost always startles me. Of course I don’t just mean seasonally. We are in a time of transition at home and while I want to cling to what was, I also want to shine a tiny flashlight into the new, unexplored corners. Kind of like chicken soup and peaches.

  • http://katieleigh.wordpress.com Katie

    Yes, yes, yes. This whole post resonates so deeply with me. I love fall, though it’s tinged with melancholy for me too. And the “nesting urges tinged with restlessness”? Happens to me every year.

    I do love this idea that the most important things will survive the winter – that fall can be a cleansing time as well as (sometimes) a mourning time. For me, it’s also a season to accept and enjoy transition, instead of fighting against it. I think that’s important.

  • http://www.storiesofconflictandlove.com Roxanne

    Fall is my favorite season as well… I deeply love the softness of the light, the hues of the leaves, the promise in the scents of it. You render the melancholy and promise so beautifully in this post…

  • http://www.leighkramer.com HopefulLeigh

    “…the need to embrace endings as well as beginnings.”

    Yes! You’ve beautifully captured what it is I love about fall.

  • http://www.dexterityunlimited.com/ Dan J

    I suppose that two centuries ago the end of harvest meant that our ancestors had more time to spend together at home instead of being out in the fields (for those that were farming). Less melancholy, more togetherness.

    For myself, I enjoy the physical comforts that the cooler weather brings. I sit back with a mug of coffee and George Winston’s “Autumn” CD, enjoying the sense of calm that I get in the fall.

  • Carryn

    I have a love/hate relationship with fall. I love that cooler weather means sweaters, boots, apples and comfort food. I love watching the leaves change around town. Not having grown up with what The Husband calls “real fall” the leaves really do fascinate me.
    But I do hate that fall means that winter is not very far away. Just the thought of winter fills me with anxiety and irritation. And every time I think about fall I think about winter.
    Right now I am trying to make myself focus on all of the wonderful things about fall and not worry about winter.Embracing the endings is an excellent way of looking at it. Trying to stay positive and some times it actually works…

  • http://ordinarilyextraordinary.com/ Amy Nabors

    Beautiful thoughts. Fall is a melancholy time of year isn’t it? Yet it is my favorite time of year. The sky so blue it almost hurts to stare at it. Fall matches my personality I guess for I could be described as melancholy.

  • http://www.tommyallenart.com Tommy Allen

    I love the fall season because it is about the shifting of light.

    It shifts in time and in place. The movement brings about some of the most amazing shadows cast against an air full of the fruits of summer’s passing.

    So it is not a time of sadness for me but a time when I feel I can exhale. (and before I take that next breath) I know because I have been there before what comes next.

    It is beautiful and what the whole year has been leading up to in my mind.

    Thanks for your thoughts, Kristin.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    ed, I love this: “It was like preserving a taste of summer would help me in the dead of winter when the trees are bare and wind is howling.” I’m sure people have felt like that for a hundred years, in a way that goes beyond caring for physical needs and includes emotional needs. It’s such a fascinating instinct.

    Alise, you’re so right–sadness needs to be mourned if we are to get relief and move forward. I love thinking about a season that helps facilitate that process.

    Jennifer, we are very much like fickle children, aren’t we? Desperate for continuity and sameness while at the same time bored with it, and curious about what else might be out there. Your “tiny flashlight” image is perfect.

    Katie, I’m glad to know I’m not alone in experiencing that strange nesting-yet-restless contradiction! It’s such an odd feeling–almost animal-like! But in the end, we do become better at letting go, which is one of those things we need lots of practice at.

    Roxanne, yes! The quality of light and the colors (which I loved in the photo I used with this post) are such distinct aspects of fall. Thank you for painting that lovely picture for us.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    HopefulLeigh, and it’s *really* a season of transitions for you this year, isn’t it? Blessings as you embrace it all.

    Dan J, what a great point—I’ve never thought of that before (clearly I didn’t grow up on a farm!). I’m sure it’s still true for farmers today. “Less melancholy, more togetherness.” And yes, I have more albums I emotionally link to fall than any other season. I wonder why that is…

    Carryn, I guess that love-hate feeling is ultimately at the heart of melancholy, isn’t it? And what you said here—”Right now I am trying to make myself focus on all of the wonderful things about fall and not worry about winter”—made me think about the importance of living in the moment, and not worrying about what lies ahead. Maybe that’s another part of what’s important about fall. I hope you have success!

    Amy, that’s so interesting, to think about a season that matches your personality—almost like you have a kindred spirit with it! I would love to hear more of your thoughts about this as they develop.

    Tommy, I love that you brought up the “shifting of light” in a time that is all about shifting gears, shifting perspectives, etc. I also love this: “it is not a time of sadness for me but a time when I feel I can exhale.” Yes.

  • http://somewiseguy.com ThatGuyKC

    Fall is my favorite time of year and overcast is ideal weather to me.

    I love the start of the school year and the changing of the season because it feels like a clean slate and a fresh start. So much energy and potential.

  • Pingback: Autumn Reflection » Ordinarily Extraordinary

  • http://www.jessiecostin.com Jessie

    This was beautiful. It really spoke to me.

    Especially the part about the weeds in the garden over winter. Sometimes we feel like we have to fight everything, like anything bad or negative is a battle, something we need to conquer. But sometimes if we let go, understand the bigger picture, those things naturally go away – they aren’t nearly as important or critical as we wasted so much effort thinking they were, we when we could have been enjoying the steadfast things, like the oak tree.