Prepare yourself for the biases of this fall fan, for the season of poetry is nigh. The Autumn Equinox is Thursday, Sept. 22, and its arrival can’t come soon enough. With the continuous bombardment of updates on technology, terrorist threats and erratic weather disasters, it seems the beginning of autumn is perhaps the remedy our restless spirits need. Autumn brings the year’s last big inhale, and the scent of pumpkin spice, chilled wind and new sweaters beckons the eyes to close, the lips to grin and the mind to drift into a poetic place where the beginning of the end is ornate with candy corn.
Don’t be deceived by the pretentious flashy displays of Spring. Fall is the season literature most delights in; the brilliant beauty of the world’s decay is enclosed within a fallen leaf. William Shakespeare himself knew this infallible truth and crystallized it in “Sonnet 73”:
That time of year thou mayst in me behold/ When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang /Upon those boughs which shake against the cold / Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
We welcome fall for all the nostalgia embedded within each flutter of memory. While we here in South Texas don’t quite have the scarlet maples of New England or the pumpkin patches to accompany a midnight ride with the Headless Horseman, we have our own traditions—from Helotes’ corn maze (a maize maze?) to Dia de los Muertos altars—that remind us it is time to wind down, and reflect on that which is leaving us or that which has left us with the fleeting rays of sunlight. The heat of summer still smears itself as sweat on furrowed brows. The temperature in San Antonio won’t drop until the following week (or so says the Weather Channel), yet the yearning for chill in the wind signifies a yearning for peace and a slower pace for rest and reflection.
We have strived to survive the brutality of 2016. Weariness and fatigue permeated by countless atrocities have exhausted our ability to hang on anymore. There are three months left in the year. It’s time for little leaves to let go. Leaves can fall, cluster upon the soil; exhale. Leaves can be tousled by a blustery breeze, thrown in a tizzy but assured of their return to the quiet ground.
We face mortality as September gives way to the darker months. Persephone is returning to the Underworld and no doubt muttering, “good riddance,” as 2016 slowly reaches the end of its cycle. Mabon, or the mid-harvest festival, celebrates this time of balance between light and dark. We bid adieu to the triumph of daylight and welcome the solitude of twilight. We express gratitude in the fall for the food and warmth the previous seasons have given us and fortify ourselves against oncoming winter winds.
Come fall, the sky will grey and the crisp air will tighten our lungs, rattle our rib cages. While the earth prepares to sleep, we foster warmth and joy at the side of the hearth with the good company of books. Autumn is haunted by ghosts, but sweetened with hot ciders and pumpkin spice lattes that cast off any impediments toward inward satisfaction.
Wrap yourself in a blanket and welcome the world of the West Wind. “O wild West Wind,” wrote Percy Bysshe Shelley, “thou breath of Autumn’s being,/Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead/Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing.” Have an adventure indoors this fall. Pair your sweater with a sonnet, your latte with a limerick; carve pumpkins and cast the spell of folk tales under the harvest moon. Much like our planet, we can take this time to prepare for resolutions, cleanse the soul and witness the poetry of the natural world.
Fall reading recommendations include:
“Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë
“The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” by the lesser-known Anne Brontë
“The Penguin Book of Witches” edited by Katherine Howe
“Selected Short Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne,” be sure to read “Young Goodman Brown”