Seasons of wither
Can Fall be a time of both death and rebirth?
I go for a walk every day after work. But I am now unable to beat the sun and finish my desired mileage before darkness. My neighborhood streets are less and less populated by people, and more by swirling piles of crispy leaves.
A classic Aerosmith tune from the 1970s plays in my head as I walk alone in the gloaming, the rainbow of flowers in my neighbors’ gardens changed to planters of mums and corn stalks tied to mailboxes, pumpkins on doorsteps.
Autumn is my favorite time of the year in New England, but also the most bittersweet. Whereas other weather periods tend to last for months, autumn only lasts a few weeks it seems. There’s a blaze of spectacular fireworks that blanket our mountains and trees, and in the blink of an eye and a gust of wind, it’s all gone, and we’re on the long slide towards our 17-month winter.
This year has had an offensively high level of loss for so many of us. As we segue into the season of death in the natural world, it’s hard not to get sucked down into depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real problem for many as the sunlight hours get shorter.
My very active friend Marilou has always counseled me that the best way to get through winter is to get out into it. Those of us who try to hide from it and avoid it only accomplish a further level of isolation — and I think we’ve all had enough of that this year.
So maybe this month, as we consider what we’re thankful for, we also use this time to refocus and re-emerge with a more positive mindset. Maybe we all need to take on the cold months and revel in every snowflake, because we know that water is important and we’re lucky to have it.
Let’s get outside and rake leaves and shovel snow, and just be all-in that we live in New England, with four delineated seasons. Maybe this is the year I take my daughter skiing or snowshoeing.
I know that personally I need to focus less on the “season of wither” and more on what our ancestors did: reveling in the abundant harvest, gratefully. Focus on the promise of spring instead of the winter that must pass first. Maybe we can find some hope and solace as we run out the most difficult calendar year some of us, God willing, will ever see.
My daughter turns 15 this month, and that’s what I’m most thankful for. She is the autumn rose in my own season of wither. My rebirth into a mom. Or would that be mum?
Kathleen Palmer is an award-winning editor and journalist, marketing/communications content writer and occasional comedic actress. Her column “Never a Dull Moment” was awarded a gold award in the humor column category by the Parenting Media Association in 2020.