After what felt like a lifetime, summer has ended. Fall is here in all its bright, colorful glory. The trees have begun to change from the pale, warm, or emerald greens of summer to the various browns, scarlet reds, muted yellows, and eye-catching oranges of Fall. It is a slow process, where I live, striking seemingly at random rather than in the calm orderly manner the trees displayed when coming to life in the spring. Different trees of the same type begin to change in their own time, content to merely overlap instead of coordinate. Spots of red appear at random and the giant green tree outside my window has four parallel streaks of orange in it, like Fall somehow passed by and rent the summer from its boughs with massive claws. Already the parking lot fills with fallen leaves and the summer heat fades into the haphazard warmth and chill of the changing season. It has been barely four months since the trees finally tore free from winter’s grasp and I find myself wondering if that is part of the reason so many branches stayed bare this year.
I have always loved Fall. The crisp scent of chilling air is one of my favorite smells, and the satisfying crunch of leaves underfoot is one of my strongest sense memories for peaceful days wandering through the forest I grew up beside. It is a time for heavy, warm meals and cool nights sitting beside fires as my friends and I sip warm beverages while we watch the stars come out well before we’re ready to head home. It is the one time of year that I can expect to easily breathe through my nose, now that my spring and summer allergies have passed but it is not yet cold enough for my usual winter-long congestion. Prime time to enjoy the smell of fallen leaves, wood smoke, crisp air, and the lingering smell of chili in my apartment.
This year, as September seems to blow by with barely a moment’s pause (faster than any month since the years-long March of 2020 distended time into an unrecognizable shape), it feels like Fall is striking faster than usual. The change of the seasons seems to be out of whack these days, with a very short summer and a long winter. Last year’s winter started late and ran long, entirely consuming spring rather than delaying it, and now summer seems to be ending just as abruptly as the long winter did. Already we’ve had temperatures less than ten degrees from freezing and I discuss whether or not we should expect snow well before Halloween again with every bit of small talk I exchange with strangers. After all, the past few winters have been either incredibly long or incredibly harsh and I’m not sure I can take another one like that, haha.
As I write this, I fight against losing focus as a mix of exhaustion from a rough night’s sleep (my mind did not want to calm down last night, it had a lot to work through that popped up in the ten minutes between taking my melatonin and climbing into bed) and distraction as the gently waving spots of brown, orange, and red stand in stark contrast to the sea of green they float in. It feels like it is already deeply Fall, as if it is already time to swap from shorts to pants and from the occasional zippered hoodie to one of my heavier sweatshirts or jackets, but I went on a walk today and wished I’d worn my flipflops instead of my shoes.
It is difficult to avoid the pull of simply sitting outside and basking in this sort of weather. It is not every day that the weather feels as confused and lost in time as I do today, and such things are to be enjoyed when they occur. After all, who doesn’t love a grey, rainy day when they’re in a grey, rainy mood? Why would it be any different when the weather is feeling as disconnected from the place you think it should be at this time of year as you’re feeling disconnected from the place you think you should be at this time in your life?
At this point, it is clear that I am losing focus from exhaustion due to a lack of sleep. It has nothing to do with the odd bits of Fall foliage happening outside my window, they’re just a convenient distraction and more pleasant excuse than sleep deprivation. The various drops and tests of today’s final eye appointment left my eyes feeling like I’d been staring at a book or bright monitor all day long, tired and drawn, though I hadn’t even begun to before my appointment and the increased light sensitivity made the day’s monitor staring even more tiring and unpleasant than usual. That said, when you can roll the dice with a morning appointment or wait an additional three weeks, sometimes it’s better just to deal with the artificially induced tiredness until you can go to bed for the evening than to spend another three weeks wondering what, if anything, is actually wrong with your eyes (aka, the primary way you interact with the world around you). So I’m doing the best I can right now, after what feels like two days worth of staring at monitors, and that will have to do for today.