My Fall New Year

Hampshire summer Hampshire fall
View from window in summer
 View from window in autumn

In September, my daughter began college back east. She shares the changing scene in photos from her phone, letting me compare the view from her window now with the image I took in late summer when flowers bloomed in the tall grass.

fall letterI tried to capture the seasonal transition around my college campus in letters home to my parents. A bit overblown and earnest to be sure, but it was all so new to me, a California girl, whose seasons slipped casually from hot to warm to cool and back again.

But I am captivated by fall for another reason: it’s when I would don a party hat and shout “Happy New Year!” if I could change the calendar. My New Year’s cycle resets annually with the first day of school, no matter that it has been decades since I slammed my final locker door and closed my last textbook.

fall leaves 2Every August, my pulse quickens at the sight of pencils and notebooks piled high in drug stores and the aisles of Target. Long before the first leaf falls anywhere, stores drape mannequins in the earth tones of autumn, and I revel at the sight of plaids and woolly sweaters. Summer may still burn hot and bright, but somewhere deep within a voice exults, It begins.

For years, no matter how wrung dry I felt in June, come September I was ready for anything, renewed and burnished by the summer sun. When school began, the days shimmered with potential. Nothing was impossible. Classes would be different. I could be different. Tabula rasa, the clean slate of the future, stretched ahead, brimming with promise.

Fall leavesYears later, that promise still whispers in my ear when fall nears: It begins.

Fresh starts, untried paths, turn over a new leaf in life’s journal. Harvest moons, cooler days, longer nights. The wheel turns, and the world is new.

From the time I was five until I graduated from college, the ebb and flow of the academic year patterned my life. At some elemental level I am as imprinted to heed the call of the school season as geese are to fly south with the autumn wind.

When my daughter started school, I shared her dawning wonder at the cycle. I understood that it was more than a school list she filled when she piled our shopping cart with folders, markers, pens and paper. The year’s renewal coursed through her veins.

It begins.


7 thoughts on “My Fall New Year

  1. Terry Lim Diefenbach says:

    For a person imported from the tropics, the feeling of fall as a beginning seems at first surprising and contradictory (isn’t spring supposed to be the symbol for that??). On reflection, it is very appropriate, and I love the poetic irony.

  2. Kerry Johnson says:

    What I remember most from my Michigan autumns was how fresh and clean the air felt, as crisp as the falling leaves that we would iron between two sheets of wax paper then hang about the house to add a festive fall touch. There were maple seeds to toss up into the air and watch them come spinning down, nature’s whirly gigs. Then there were the bonfires, massive affairs, lit before the homecoming football game. Here we get the Santa Ana winds that scour our skin and leave us dessicated. Fall is when I grow homesick for Michigan. Winter is when I’m glad I moved.

  3. Sherrie Lendroth says:

    I with you there on the “cooler” weather. I always have enjoyed cooler weather and I only wear Autumn colors.

  4. patlandon5 says:

    My favorite fall activity was raking the oak leaves into a giant pile at the foot of my slide in the backyard.It was made from steel/aluminum,so a piece of CUTRIGHT wax paper, did a fine job of waxing the slide, so I could go really FAST……Over and over, until my hair was covered w/dirt and leaves and Mom yelled from the kitchen window! Thanks for the memories.Tabula Rosa.

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