This column was originally going to be about something else, and it still will be about that thing eventually, but I noticed something before I sat down to write it.
Of the year, we’re nearing the end of the year.
What did you think I meant?
Just a bit of background, there are two feelings in my life I’ve associated with fall. The first is the cold sweat, ball-in-the-pit-of-my-stomach nervous dread I felt as a kid the second a chill mixed into the summer air. That chill meant one thing, school. And, in certain years, not just another year of school, a new school altogether.
I absolutely hated that feeling; the inevitability of freedom’s end and all the educational and social obligations and entanglements that would be forced upon me whether I liked it or not.
I never liked it.
That feeling has, thankfully, lost its power over me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still feel it when the first cool breeze eases across my face every late August or early September. Every year, that moment takes me back to shopping for school supplies and waking up to catch the school bus. The difference now is I get to feel that feeling and then think, “I’m glad those days are over,” immediately thereafter.
So that’s my old associative feeling with the onset of fall. Here’s the other.
If I stop and think about it, this other feeling usually happens right after Daylight Savings Time ends. You don’t really notice it that first Sunday, but when you leave work that Monday you realize, hey, it’s dark now. Things are different. It’s not summer anymore. We’re heading into a new season. A new mode of being.
We’re headed for the end.
This year, I believe I had that thought on my way to my car from the office. It was dark, it was chilly; it wasn’t summer anymore. All the dashboard and accent lighting greeted me when I started my car and I had my thought, the one I associate with fall now that I’m an adult.
The end of the year is coming.
The time when life gets smaller. The time when, from now until the end of the year, we gather here and there and celebrate making it through another one. Together.
It’s a nice feeling.
We, and by that I mean you and I, have just been through Election Day in these pages. I probably don’t have to tell you election season is the busiest time for us here at your newspaper. This year was especially busy with big, important races at the local and county level to cover in such a way to ensure you knew and understood everything you needed to know and understand before casting your vote last week. It’s a lot of work and responsibility I can tell you everyone on this end takes seriously. Hopefully, you’ll find we did right by you in that endeavor.
Now things change.
We have budgets to cover, of course, and I’m sure there will be developments and intrigue in our communities along the way, but, now that the days are shorter and my car’s accent lighting greets me straight out of the office, it’s time for us, and by that I mean you and me, to focus on some other things, too.
As the temperature drops, we’ll wear different clothes; things that keep us warm, make us feel safer, in a way, than our summer clothes do. We’ll put more blankets on our beds, too. I don’t know about you, but I think I sleep deeper bundled into bed against the cold than I do with just a sheet and air conditioning in the summer.
That’s sort of what summer is, isn’t it? It’s a time for living out loud. We go places, we do things; we fill our days in the summer in ways, and sometimes with people, that we don’t at other times of the year. Summer, as a concept, has always seemed big and broad to me, both when I was a kid and now. The beginning of summer is boundless and open. The end of it feels like a death in a way, and always one with some degree of unfulfilled promise.
But that gives way to this time, one of warm beds and drawing closer to the people and places that mean the most to us because the cold and the darkness make our lives smaller, more intimate, more reliant on who and what we know; the people and places that make us feel safe.
I’ve come to love this time of year.
Soon, we’ll all set aside a day or two and sit around a table of people we love, and who love us, to give thanks for what we find there, and to partake in it until we feel warm and safe. Then we’ll gather again one more time after that, and that time it’ll be about celebration.
There are different ways we come by that year-end celebration. For me, that time, which we may speak about again when it’s upon us, is more about the enduring bonds of family and friendship than it is about anything else.
I won’t deceive you, it used to be about the presents, mostly, but thankfully, hopefully, we all evolve.
And that’s what I like about that feeling I got on my way to the car from the office the other day. It was a signal to me my world is going to get smaller and warmer again. It’s going to bring me to the people and places I love most and, when I’m there, I’m going to think, probably more than once, about how we all got through another year together and what a special thing that is.
Reach Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @jasonchirevas