On Friday, I was finally able to get back on my bike, after the hectic opening of the school year. In the three weeks (to the day) since I had been on the trail, the first intimations of autumn had appeared. Fall has always been my favorite season, by a long shot. This is due, in part, to the cool, crisp air. The true-blue skies and bright colors of the leaves on trees covering the rolling hills of northeastern Iowa. But it is also partly a result of, since kindergarten, living within the cycle of the academic year. Autumn, in education, equals a fresh start. A new year in which to learn and accomplish new and exciting things.
There has been what feels like a paradigm shift in my life this year. I find that, while I am ready to welcome fall, I am also mourning the passing of summer — which has for a number of years been my least favorite season. What is going on here? I think I’m falling in love with all four seasons.
The only part of winter I used to like was the part leading up to and encompassing Christmas. January 2 through the end of the season (March or May, depending on the year), I would have gladly lived without. Like generations of children, I too, was horrified by C.S. Lewis’ description of Narnia as a country in which it was always winter, but never Christmas. As I thought about my newly mixed feelings about fall, I realized that this internal shift began as far back as last winter, when I discovered that I enjoyed shoveling snow, being outdoors in cold weather and exerting myself. I remember appreciating the clarity of thought I could achieve on a clear and icy night under the velvet sky and shimmering stars.
The first warm days of spring found me basking in the sunshine. Finding excuses to take my work outside, to linger at the outdoor tables at the coffee shop. I remember trekking through mud at Squaw Creek park, uncaring about the mess as long as I could breathe deeply and smell the earth.
Then summer 2010. “The best summer of my adult life”, I surprised myself by saying when faculty and students returned to campus in August. Everyone asked why. The reasons were numerous, when I stopped to think it through. First, after losing weight and exercising regularly, my body is able to handle variations in temperature. I sweat now, which is a surprisingly positive change. Riding my bike with friends, working in my yard, laying in the sun in a bathing suit…lovely activities I rediscovered this year. Produce fresh from the farm every Thursday. Family and friends to share the long days and short nights.
Back to last Friday’s bike ride, and incipient autumn. As I rode, the sun warm on my back and arms, leaves crackling under the tires, I had occasional glimpses of ripening cornfields rolling off to the horizon. And that’s when I made a vow to end my mourning for summer — even for the best summer ever. I will celebrate the season that I am part of right now and live as fully in it as possible. And, as it draws to a close, instead of sadness at what is passing, I will anticipate what is to come…anyone up for snow shoeing this year?!