An Open Letter to Autumn

Hello, Autumn, you beautiful beast of a season.

You are so welcome here, you have no idea. We have been waiting for you.

We have been craving your shorter days, your tall hedge of evening colors growing higher, shielding us from the horrors that abound when it is hot and intolerable and stifling. My goodness, it has been a long, fitful summer. Welcome, welcome. People everywhere will be glad you are here.

If you’re arriving in the U.S., you know that we’ve been riding a political rollercoaster that seems to be screeching along toward a terrifying finish. We’re at that point where the lights flash unexpectedly, where our faces get caught in the most horrific expressions just before we face the last, most anticipated ghastly drop.

Perhaps we will soon be at the point of reflection, where we look back at the snapshot and wonder, What were we thinking? How could we have let ourselves be preserved like that in such a startling, unflattering moment of falter, with our humanity so unrecognizable even to ourselves? There’s no going back once that picture is taken. We’ll have to look on it throughout all of history and wonder how we could have been so careless.  

If you’ve been absorbing what passes these days as “news” you have undoubtedly seen Britain vote to leave the EU. You’ve seen migration explode, lifejackets littering the land like fallen leaves, rivers of humans in uproar. You’ve heard talk of walls, chromium in our water, and children trapped in pockets of vast misfortune, suffering in incomprehensible ways.

Amidst all this there have been random acts of terror we cannot come to grips with or understand. There have been more unjust shootings of innocent people in cities across America than my feeble brain can comprehend.

It’s been a difficult and terrifying summer, Autumn, and I, for one, am glad you are here.

There’s an internal heaviness that’s set in lately that I’m hoping you can help me with. It’s too much a burden to ignore, too much on my shoulders to continue to skip forward, lightly, without stopping to try and shift the load.

I take comfort in knowing that I’m not alone in this. Behind the smiles, flavored coffees and emojis that stand for our feelings and those rare unpredictable moments of intense, awkward laughter we anxiously claw after to keep as evidence of our joy... behind all of that there is an awareness of our condition.

We humans know we are not in a good place, collectively speaking. We can’t ignore that Mother Nature, the planet, and all its living things are conspiring to remove us, or at the very least awaken us to our steady march toward extinction. We know something has to be done and that somehow we have to be the someones to do it.

You know us well, Autumn. After all, you’ve been around a very long time. So you’ll believe me when I tell you that we really need your help. We need change and you are just the season for it. 

Summer and winter are far too harsh and unstable. They have nothing to offer, nothing to give, too assertive in their own extremes, too far flung in one direction or the other. And spring is far too mercurial, too aware of its power, making too much of its lushness and dew and rebirth. It’s another extreme, in a way. And we definitely don’t need extreme right now.

What we need is a bridge. An in-between. A middle-goer who moves briskly and easily alongside us humans, drawing us together. The moment of shift where the breeze is neither one thing nor another. Where you could forgive yourself and others for thinking it might be too cold or too warm and leave the house wearing too many clothes or too few.

Forgiveness and a stretch of time dedicated to nothing but transition and change. That’s what we need. That’s you, Autumn.

You’ve always been my favorite season. That’s why I insist on capitalizing the first letter of your name. It feels wrong not to because I’ve always thought of you as alive. Ever since we cut out little leaves in your honor at school and pasted them around the chalkboard. Ever since we brought the outdoors inside with our pumpkins and wreaths and harvest colors.

I don’t want to sound too affable or affectionate but it’s true. You’ve always brought comfort and goodness to me, and even when you didn’t I saw that you had tried at least to be kind, that your ways were subtle and assuring. I’ve liked you best because you always made it clear that we could leave summer behind and it would be beautiful still, and that winter would come and somehow that prospect could be welcome.

So today you’ve come back and stood outside my door. I knew you would be there this morning. The deep bonfire air that walked with me the night before was like a telegram announcing your arrival. Even though I couldn’t yet see you, I felt you instantly when I stepped outside.

I noticed and appreciated your fresh optimism. It’s a new year for you. A clean start. How wonderful.

For us it is just the continuation of 2016, which so far has not been all that great. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had good times and many, many blessings that I cannot deny. I am certainly very fortunate, all things considered. But I’m talking about on a human scale. I’m talking about the big picture, the gigantic marble responsible for hitting all the little ones.

Even though I am personally okay, it’s hard not to notice that most things in the world aren’t. And maybe that’s why I’ve been to the doctor so many times this year and developed chronic migraines and started a thing called a “treatment plan” in order to “get them under control.” Maybe that’s my personal signal. Because I’m almost certain there is a tiny blot of recognition growing inside all of us, making us suffer just a little bit, so that we realize that we need change and we need it very fast.  

I’m not a scientist or a politician or a biologist or an activist or an environmentalist or anything like it. My job is rooted somewhere in feeling and understanding and translating that into words and stories that can communicate something to other humans. Maybe it is because of this job that I have this acute sensory receptor which is making a startling reading. If it were an alarm it would be blaring. If it were a siren it would be wailing. If it were a bell it would be furiously ringing loud enough to wake the dead.  

Do you hear it?

Of course you do.

That’s why you’ve been waiting eagerly in the wings, watching the deplorables taking over  the summer too stubborn and self-righteous to stop them  knowing full well that it will soon be your turn.

Now that you’re here, I need to ask you: Can you offer us a chance to change?

I know it depends on us. We will see what your season brings.

Thanks for coming, by the way. I know global warming probably didn’t make it easy. I hope others will feel the way I do and welcome you in.

Who knows, maybe just your being here will awaken something relevant and concerned in us. Perhaps there will be a collective pause, a momentary lapse from the crazy, which in truth might be all we need to stop just before that flash and ask ourselves how we wish to be known in that picture. Whether we want to look back and see ourselves terrified and broken, reaching the final plummet, or whether by some slim margin we can muster our courage and face the future head on and unafraid.