The Grim Season
Autumn is my favorite season. So anything I am about to write about it does not diminish my feeling for it. I like it because of its weather - cool and comfortable, gray and cloudy with occasional sunny skies and a washed-out blue pallor, low angle, diffused orange light, the color of turning leaves and the smell of wet earth and decaying foliage. Most of all, I love Halloween - not because I like to party and dress up in costume. Before starting my current job in September 2004 I never participated in a Halloween Party in my life. It’s because Halloween is about Evil - not about fun - and I kind of dig evil. It gets dark early, and for me darkness represents privacy, camouflage, malice - and freedom.
School starts. For little children that is a time of fear and excitement. For me there was only a little bit of regret about the end of summer. Later, as a high school student, I felt most the early, oppressive darkness. Home from school early (because I never, ever participated in any school clubs), dark by 4:30, dinner not ready yet but the smells of cooking filtering through the house. It felt good to be home but the sudden early darkness made me feel isolated despite being surrounded by brothers as we watched late afternoon re-runs of shows like Hogan’s Heroes and Gilligan’s Island.
As a university student Fall was a time of great anxiety. First, I was away from home. Second, the work load of a university humanities student was/is considerable. Until a few weeks passed and the work load was shaped into some manner of controllable order I slept badly, worried much, and went with little sleep.
Here’s how it was: after classes, study in the dorm; after that, dinner in the residence dining room; after that, several hours of uninterrupted reading in the university library, usually in the reserve reading room, but occasionally in the stacks, seven days a week. (At my university the stacks were underground.) Leaving the library at night it was pitch dark and cold, and often wet from rain. That smell of rotting leaves was everywhere as I made my way across a quiet, dark, shadowy and sinister-looking campus to my residence where there was little sign of life until I reached the common room where students periodically scurried to huddle around the TV during breaks from their dorm room dens. Lonely, that’s how it was. Lonely, cold, isolated, anxious - like knowing that a vampire was stalking you. For a long stretch of time, other students were not good company. We were all adjusting to the crisis of displacement and work anxiety: red-eyed rodents. Even the girls, who were only very slow to form a pool of soothing companionship, were a torture.
Lonely, scared, cold, dark and wet: that’s the Autumn that I love.