Is it a coincidence that “fall” (v) is synonymous with “diminish; tumble; crash; cascade; recede; regress; lessen”? –That “fall” (n.) is synonymous with “plummet; decline; lapse; downfall; loss; ruin; humiliation”?
The last one seems especially apt. Fall has a terrible promise to it that I cannot escape, year after year. I am caught in the deceptive beauty of this wonderful season, the “cascade” of colors, the “regression” of temperature, the “decline” of the number of hours in the day. Each year without fail (fall?) I eagerly anticipate the changing of hues, the November rain (Axl Rose might have something to say to that), the autumn harvest, the opportunity to wear peacoats, scarves, and hats again for the first time since April. When November comes around, the anticipation of the holiday season, of winter break, of the first snow seems to carry such beautiful potential that I cannot but think that great things must surely be in store.
And each year, I am disappointed. Humiliated in my naivete, in my hope, in my dreams for a beautiful season, because the only thing that can possibly come after fall is winter. Terrible, ferocious, dreaded winter. In Greek mythology, fall and winter were caused by Demeter’s surrender of her daughter, Persephone, to the lord of the underworld, Hades, for six months out of the year. Her grief each year was so riveting that she forced the whole world to share it with her – as the goddess of agriculture and the harvest, she caused everything green and beautiful in the world to wither and die, and the mortals to starve for six months while they waited for the spring. And though fall is tenacious in its beauty, winter is horrific in its brutality.
Winter is a dark place in my mind, and it takes me to dark places – places I forget so easily come spring, come summer, come warmth and light. The fact that fall inevitably turns into winter seems like a terrible betrayal, the promise of beauty turned into a desolate loneliness that cannot be overcome, but must simply be waited out.
But I will cling to my naivete. I will allow fall in all its glory, to lead me on, to make promises that it cannot keep, to whisper excitedly to me of great things yet to come. I will allow it, for I have no choice – the alternative is jaded misery, an atheism of spirit, a self-denial, “no”-saying to myself. To listen to fall’s delicate hum, her gentle whisper, is to maintain an innocence that, no matter how naive, is irreplacable, for it tells me that all is not lost, that spring will come, that the sun will come up tomorrow.