creatures of the air

autumn is my favorite season. always has been. i love the slight chill in the air, the smell of burning leaves, the riotous colors and the twilights that linger just a little bit longer.

give me hot cocoa. better yet, spiced cider. i want the scratchy wool socks. i need the brisk breezes. i crave the corduroy pants.

i know it’s only the first of september. i understand that true autumn is a little way off yet. my mind gets it. the rest of me looks longingly at my mufflers and mittens.

but last night, while waiting for my computer to finish defragmenting, i started to wonder what it was that i was yearning for. and although a nice big bonfire is one of my favorite things in the world, and nothing compares to candy apples, i began to realize that they are just the halloween costume that covers up the child underneath.

thus began my search for the elusive reason for the season.

spring is for new life, summer is for lovers, winter is strictly hibernation time. and autumn is for…what, exactly?

some would say reflection, maturity, acceptance of the quick passage of time with the seasons and our lives. i won’t disagree, but i think those are the easy answers. and far be it from me to do anything easy. i prefer the hard stuff.

why do I love a time when things are dying?  when families break apart?  when all that stretches before me is bleak and washed in white?  granted, a lot of bugs die, but that’s small consolation for alienation and loss.

when i was a child, the one supremely onerous item of autumn was raking leaves. my parents picked a weekend, and we all moaned and complained and generally put off pitching in as long as we could. we had crappy metal rakes, a large front and back yard, and depending on the designated day we were either drenched in sweat or freezing our patooties off. my parents were lucky if they got a solid productive hour out of any of us, and were usually left holding the bag, literally, while we groused about blisters and breaking backs, hightailing it inside for a “little break” that usually lasted the rest of the day.

but once the leaves were all gathered, my parents would call us all outside and let us run kamikaze-style around the yard, jumping into the piles, scattering the results of their labor and whooping with wild abandon when we found a heap gloriously free of slugs. they never complained, just smiled at our delight and put the piles back together when we had exhausted ourselves.

at the time, it was a fun, temporary diversion from the chores of the day. but when i think about it now, i realize what my parents really did for us.

they let us have a moment of unfettered freedom, the blessing to make an unholy mess without regard to thoughts of consequence or accountability. they gave us that split second of time when we were suspended at the apex, the exact moment between ascension and falling where the world seems unimaginably vast and the possibilities endless. and though our trajectory was fixed and the outcome inevitable, for that one perfect second we were creatures of the air with the undeniable right to make that headlong plunge into the unknown.

my computer dinged to signal the end of defragmentation as my brain buzzed with the coalescing of thought.

maybe it’s not the autumn I’m looking forward to. maybe it’s the fall.

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