If There’s a Fall, Will There Be Bruises?

Stone Sleight-of-Hand, Big Sur Style


A wind has blown the rain away and blown the sky away and all the leaves away, and the trees stand.  I think, I too, have known autumn too long.
—e.e. cummings

Another in a succession of mornings of deep fog; the sun does struggle forward as the day turns, but effort is fitful, the results tenuous. The change from summer to fall always provokes melancholy in me. It’s a host of things: the winds pick up a bit, and their whispers are cooler; they curl under my collar, with cold intent. Leaves dry and curl, lose vitality and color, and fall brittle to the ground. The light itself, its weak slant, its ebbing warmth, seems a conspiracy. Or even a taunting: time rolls on, what have you done? I have a touch of SAD, that aptly named Seasonal Affective Disorder, where the shorter days and the dimming light seem to drain my batteries.

But whatever the physical component of that, whatever the tangible indicators of time’s timeless march, there’s a kind of surrender to the conspiracy that’s purely psychological. After all, it’s not winter that’s here, but fall, a time of harvest, often one of fruition. (And of course, I live in California, where folks of the Eastern flavor would make a scornful roll of the eyes at whimperings from a body that’s never touched a snow shovel.) And yet, and yet, there’s always the feeling for me at fall’s outset that the movement is toward winter, and that spring won’t come again. I’ve looked at fall as an ending, rather than a beginning.

There’s Really Not An Effing Thing to Whinge About

But I’m making the effort to be more conscious of my moods, and look at them with a sort of dispassionate affection: “Oh, a bit on the whiny side today, are we? Maybe it’s just a nap after lunch that’s needed, or a quick go-round with a neighbor’s cow and the trebuchet.” Partially because I’ve been trying to put one of the tenets of the book I’ve been reading, Buddha’s Brain, into practice. One of its many salubrious offerings is to recognize that there is the situation, and then there is your reaction to the situation. I know, old porridge that, but the book offers a number of approaches to recognize that when the elements of your nervous system light their alarms and dispense their flight/fight/brain-blight chemicals, you can consciously pour on a cerebral cocktail of your own making to soften the assault.

Thus we have fall. Instead of thinking of the next Ice Age, I can think of my coming birthday, the sympathetic shape of pumpkins, the writing conference I’m soon to attend, and good soup. I can try to take to heart Samuel Butler, who said, “Youth is like spring, an over praised season more remarkable for biting winds than genial breezes.  Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.”

Oh, about that fog this morning: it broke early. My girlfriend and I drove down to Big Sur, one of God’s palaces on earth, with the top down on the Miata, hiked around a winding hillside overlook with waves crashing on rocks below, went to the sweetly eccentric Henry Miller Library, where I fondled the Ginsberg and the Kerouac, flipped through old vinyl records from decades past, envied the giant coon cat sleeping on the warm deck, ate a scrumptious lunch high on the hill at Ventana, and came home dizzy with sun.

Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.
—William Cullen Bryant

Fall, there are worse seasons.


9 thoughts on “If There’s a Fall, Will There Be Bruises?

  1. Last winter I had a lovely experience that made me think that maybe winter isn’t so bad. So I’m not looking at the approach of winter with too much dread this time round. I even bought a pumpkin to make pie which I’ve never done ever because I was always too bah-humbug about it.

    California winters are so mild though. I lived in Humbolt county for one year and it was the first time in my life that I experience and warm Christmas Day.


  2. Sounds like the Buddhist stuff is taking a hold. California is wonderful any time of year but to truly appreciate fall I think one has to indulge in the colors of fall. Orange. How can you be depressed when every where you look you see orange? It’s a fat and happy color.
    That’s my philosophy of fall.

  3. Hi Jai. I’m trying to change my attitude, because winter will come, and me playing the violin over it won’t change its coming a bit. And for some reason, pumpkins make me smile, so I’m glad to see them around. (And pumpkin pie, yum! I’m even more glad to see it around!)

    Just to show you what a trembling Californian I am: you mention Humboldt winters and their mildness. That’s one of the California places I think of as being COLD. Oh well…

  4. Penny, I love your “fat and happy color” phrase. That’s a fine philosophy to have. Indeed, and here’s to the orangest of oranges!

    The trees here in Santa Cruz County aren’t that dramatic this time of year, but you don’t have to go real far to see some nice fall tints, and shades (and screams of orange).

    Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Tom, I too am working on my “Second Dart” reactions and have found useful brain-blight fighting tips in Buddha’s Brain—though I was surprised that the authors made no mention of the well-documented limbic-system-calming effects of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

    And summer? Pffft. There’s a good reason they’re called the (relentless) Dog Days of. Give me the rebirth of autumn, with her cooling promise of variety, in colors and climactic moods.

  6. Annie, the Peanut Butter Cup cure was in the addendum. I’m getting good info out of the book, but as with overcoming any habit of mind, you (that being me) really have to push to not fall back into old patterns. Pushing now.

    Well, I do have my qualms with autumn, but it does seem like a good season to drink brandy.

  7. Seasons. As a reformed and completely cured ex-Californian, this is the stuff that fills my head and heart of late.

    I was born 40 miles from where I sit. Spent over 40 years in California or Texas (which only got 7, but it was 8 too many.) Coming back to a place where a “hot summer day” means you’d better wear short sleeves, and where “fall” is because in one day, all the leaves are orange, and in one more day, the wind blows them all into the neighbor’s yard, you’re quite welcome.

    Sue has never experienced winter. We “wintered” in south Jersey, where it snowed twice. Total “snow on the ground days” = 5. Wisconsin has no such fears. Once, there was only snow on the ground for 2 months. Everyone danced naked in the streets. Well, naked for Lutherans; no hats, and very few galoshes.

    I am determined to battle ferociously against the slow dragging slump of dripping and grey. I’ve spent more happy days in the sun during the past year alone than in all my life since I was 9. I can take a little grey if it means that next year will, once again, have 9 months of good weather instead of the 2 we always got in Sacramento.

  8. Joel, I’ve never experienced weather either. I’ve experienced grey, from living a couple of years in Seattle. I’ve experienced sweaty, from living in Micronesia, and for some months in the Bahamas and Panama. But never winter. I should try it sometime, just to see if I have any courage. Though even a real winter might not change me into a dancing Lutheran.

  9. Winter is best experienced via a triple-pane window, whilst sitting near a blazing fire sipping rum toddies.

    But compared to the lung-sucking blasts of Sacramento in August, it’s delightful.

    Can we call our band “Dancing Luther” which almost makes the point, but avoids legal retribution?

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