“April is the cruelest month, mixing memory with desire” - T. S Eliot
Don’t ask me about Autumn. I’ll start telling you about misty mornings in the valley, sipping coffee with my flatmates in our fleece dressing gowns, and then later sneaking up the stairs in the early hours, barefoot and freezing, trying not to alert everyone of my arrival. Or my first real heartbreak, paired with sharp blue-sky days and buckets of red wine on an unfamiliar street that would become my second home. Or that particularly hard autumn, where each evening I grew to dread the moment the sun would go down and take with it the last golden light, signaling a long, anxious night was about to begin.
The drop in temperature, the turning of leaves signals a shift – and even though T.S Eliot was talking about the northern hemisphere here, I’m going to say it still works. Something about the crisp mornings has a bunch of us feeling all kinds of ways. The desire to return to a now-gone time, the peace of laying painful memories to rest, the anticipation of something arriving (a winter in the arms of a yet-to-be-named man!?). Call it a touch of Seasonal Affective Disorder, but when I asked if the current turn of seasons has got anyone else bathing in nostalgia, the answer was a resounding yes, and below we asked five people to elaborate.
“I’ve always enjoyed the changing of seasons, the beginning of Autumn I am particularly fond. Summer is a mad rush of joy. Long warm nights on the deck, with the lingering smells of barbeques and the sounds of endless chatter. You’d be crazy not to love summer and all the people it brings out of hiding. But I feel myself letting out a sigh of relief when Autumn comes around. And I feel the earth letting out a sigh of relief also. I love the morning dew, the slightly numb hands on the work commute. The way the light bounces off everything it touches. Most of all I love the change in myself that autumn brings. I find myself craving the stack of literature that has sat in the corner of my room untouched all summer. My mind gets more nostalgic, more poetic, more sanguine. It’s as if, somehow, the change of season allows me to truly see both the joys of summer and of autumn without judgement. Change allows me to notice. And I’m starting to think that there’s something about change that fills a basic human need.”
“Every year Autumn hits me without warning. I step outside and suddenly the air is weighted differently, it’s colder, the sky somehow bluer and the sunsets pinker. All at once I’m plunged into the centre of so many different memories. The autumn I turned 19 and went to New York on my own, I walked through Central Park and felt convinced that the city could hear my internal monologue. The autumn after my first heartbreak, each day I walked to catch the bus to uni, watching the leaves on oak tree at the end of the drive slowly change colour and fall. I changed so much that autumn, I leveled up from a teen to an adult, I came home to myself, stopped trying to be something else for someone else and just was.
Cold mornings will always remind of that feeling, of coming home. Memories are like that. They attach themselves to whatever living thing they can find. The smells (the perfume I wore, NYC pretzels) and the feelings (loneliness, confidence, confusion). In the past it used to leave me floored. I felt so outside of myself, and inside my head at the same time. Immersed in the feelings of a person who didn’t feel like me anymore. But now I’m ready for it. For how lost the nostalgia of seasons past can make me feel, but also how exciting it is. The change of season is a free press-restart button from the universe and from here on out I intend to take it.”
“Every year when the air gets colder I remember I’m getting older, but I also remember the frosty autumns when I was growing up under the mountains. I remember how I felt the first time someone kissed me, a concrete doorstep and an open door behind me. I remember grey days and chicken korma and the pink kitchen of my first autumn in a city. I remember things I didn’t know I still held: the precise moment I first noticed a missing wedding ring on a hand, and all that followed. Last autumn feels all too close. Mostly I’m amazed that the temperature drops a few degrees and it gets darker and the smell of the air changes, and I still hold everything that has passed. It’s a ridiculous kind of equation, the sum of which still takes me by surprise, still makes me cry at the strangest of times.”
“Autumn's crisp coolness feels like nostalgia coupled with excitement/anticipation. It takes me back to winter memories from last year and also my childhood. It’s a time to reflect on the year so far while also knowing there is so much of this year left to make the most of. I think I want to be a summer lover (swimming and adventuring are big positives), but autumn is so great because I feel settled, productive and get a taste of what is to look forward to in winter without being absolutely freezing. The best of every season is yet to come - cosiness of winter, new beginnings of spring and the warmth and adventures of summer alongside the tension of living in the moment.”
“Summer is beautiful and long and free, but autumn feels like coming home in a way – returning to myself. Autumn feels a bit like picking up all the pieces of paper I threw in the air in jubilation at the beginning of summer – gathering up my resolutions, my ideas, my dreams. It feels like the real beginning of the year. In the height of summer I never want it to end, but when those first cold mornings hit, and the sky begins to darken as I’m driving home from work, my soul feels like it’s letting out a huge breath I didn’t realise I’d been holding in. In summer I feel light and transient, but with the cold and the dark comes a weight that grounds me, and everything feels heavier, in a good and important way. I experience life more deeply. A face I love in the warm candlelight, a touch I know in the cold linen sheets, a place I call home transformed by the yellowing of leaves. Some things change and some things stay the same. And it’s all good.”