Fall is a weird season for me. There are so many emotions and associations I have with it, and they are split about equally between positives and negatives. So I don’t really have a word for the way that autumn makes me feel. It’s almost a sort of nostalgia with sadness creeping around the edges. I think I spent a good year or so in high school feeling almost totally directionless. I would spend evenings and nights walking around town by myself, trying to keep myself moving because I didn’t have the energy or the motivation to do much else. I would stay up way too late almost every night, browsing the internet or watching TV, to the point where I would just want to crash after a few days. Then, the cycle would repeat. Looking back, I think it would be safe to say I was experiencing depression in some form or another. I didn’t want to go to bed, because I didn’t want to have to get up for another day. I try desperately hard to remember just what it was that had me so unhappy, and I can’t really come up with any definitive answers. Sure, there were stresses in my life, and at the time I liked to pile the blame of my apathy and sadness on those issues, but I can’t say that was the real reason.
I felt attracted to the darkness around me (both figuratively and literally), and I would fantasize about running into the cover of night and simply continuing until I disappeared. The night sky has always intrigued me, because when you can’t see anything, the landscape around you can take on any shape that your mind can imagine. I used to imagine, when I looked into the woods at night, that they extended on forever, covering the whole world in vast, uncharted territory that was there for me to explore. During that autumn where I was struggling, I think the night came to represent more of an escape for me. I would dream that I was flying high above the darkened world below me, and leaving all of my problems behind as my home shrunk smaller and smaller until it was lost over the horizon. It was only a fantasy, but one that I would entertain night in and night out, as I fried my brain and numbed my hurt with late night cartoons and all the bad things the internet has to offer. I still consider that the lowest point of my life, so when I smell the first fallen leaves, or feel the first cool breezes left behind as summer’s tide ebbs away, or the sunset seems to roll behind the mountain’s earlier and earlier, I feel all those feelings again. In an instant, I sense a watered-down version of that period – the pain, confusion, apathy, and sadness – all muddled together and poured back into me. Each and every year since then, while I have found direction in my life, I still struggle with sadness and depression when fall and winter swing by. I guess maybe it’s some sort of seasonal depression, but I’m not sure and that’s not the important point here.
There are also so many memories of wonderful things that autumn brings with it. Hay rides, pumpkin carving, and Halloween. Getting up far too early on a Monday morning to go hunting with my dad and brothers stands out to me as one of the greatest things fall has to offer. Even though I complained about getting up before dawn (which, I might add, I now do on a daily basis before work, and with no less whining), and I did less hunting than playing Gameboy while my dad kept lookout, in retrospect it carries a lot of value with it. Having my father with me giving me hunting lessons – how to use and respect firearms, searching for signs of wildlife, patiently coaching me as I had a deer in the sights, and showing me how to dress and drag a deer out of the woods – was affirming in ways that I am only now noticing. I was just 12, the shortest kid in the class who was still years away from puberty, but I felt like a man who had conquered the forces of nature. It is something that I will carry with me all my life, and hopefully pass on to my children with the same reverence and power with which it was given to me as a child.
And there are other things to look forward to as well. I am deeply in love with someone who feels the same way towards me. I am counting down the months and days until we are married (9 months and 3 days if my math is right), and trying not to let the excitement and stress of planning that day get in the way of me living in the here and now. I graduated college and am working in a career that I hope can bring me fulfillment and the ability to build the life that Zoe and I want to have together. God is moving in my life in ways that I probably am not aware of at the moment, pulling me back to Him after drifting away for too long. I am being blessed in more ways than I can count, and I am fighting back the anxiety and depression that is trying to subdue the hope that these things bring to me. I can’t wait to spend a cold afternoon cuddled up with someone who, while the official day is still months in the future, has felt like my wife for quite a while. We will go to concerts, pick apples and drink cider until I become violently ill, and watch as the landscape turns from summer green into autumn gold. We will take pictures of our time together, and eventually those photos will fill up an old wicker basket like my grandmother has. And our children and grandchildren will look at those photos, some of them stuck together and bent at the edges, making fun of us for our ridiculous hair and boots and flannel shirts. They will look at those photos and get that subtle feeling of wonder that we have all experienced before when looking at family photos. Wondering about what it felt like in those photographs, the conversations and relationships and memories we shared together, that seem perfect because they are in the past. Then they, too, will have the opportunity to create the same conversations and relationships and memories with other people, and they will understand the love and beauty that I have found in life.
What all this goes to tell is that while the seasons around me change, I am still in the summer of my life. While the world around me goes dark, cold, and sometimes bleak, I have so much more life to live and love to share that those fleeting tinges of sadness I experience have no dominion over me. I have the love of God and the love of a beautiful woman to drive away the fog that attempts to settle over my soul. I am once again soaring through that night sky, but this time I am headed home