My birthday is in early September, and every year, it heralds the beginning of autumn. Something shifts in me when it arrives. I accept that summer is dying and fall will soon take its place. This morning, I look out the window and see the garden on its final flowers: scarlet mums, goldenrod, blushing sedum, fiery orange sunflowers, deep purple New England asters. Rudbeckia like dark-eyed suns. Everything else is fading: the echinacea sway brown and charred, the marjoram hangs scraggled and woody, and the daisy bushes begin to yellow. Soon all will be dead, and it will be winter, and I’ll be desperate for spring again.
Each year, winter is harder for me to accept. I used to love parts of winter: the slippers, the sweaters, the white puffs of our breath, the delight and surprise of snow. Now, the only things I like about winter are Christmas and wood fires in the fireplace. These days winter depresses me. I want to run away from the darkness, the bulkiness of winter clothes, the bleak landscape.
If you would have asked me this spring, “Do you think you’ll crave fall by the end of summer?” I would have said absolutely not. I want endless green and flowers and butterflies. I want light clothing and bare feet and lunches on the back deck. I want swimsuits, weekends on the water, paddling and surfing and listening to waves crash. And I want long stretches of sunlight, 14 hours at least, where there’s enough light to run at 6:30 in the morning and watch hummingbirds in the garden until almost 9pm.
And yet, at the end of every summer, I am ready for fall. Including, much to my surprise, this one. My husband gave me a jacket for my birthday that has me watching the forecast for a day when I can wear it (there is not one yet). I’m thinking about shrubs to plant in November so we’ll have something new to flower in the spring. I pulled out my jeans this week and am wearing long pajama pants today even though it’s not really that cool out. I ordered a wetsuit yesterday so we can paddleboard on crisp autumn days, and I’m eyeing the woodpile and thinking about that first fire.
It does me no good to resist what will come. Because winter will come. And if I’m honest with myself, even though I grumble more about winter every year, I am grateful for its cold darkness that makes me appreciate warmth and light.