There’s something about the fall of the year that energizes me. Even now, with the equinox only a few days past and the temperature here in Northern California more like midsummer than autumn, I’m shot through with a mental and physical fizziness that I can barely contain. It’s nothing new, of course. I’ve been this way when autumn starts all my life.
Why? Well, I used to think it was because of my birthday in October. That was when I was much younger, though. Today, I just accept my upcoming birthday with as much grace as I can, considering I’ve just completed another year toward old age.
So if it’s not the prospect of a party with presents and cake and ice cream, what is it about autumn that jazzes me up? Perhaps it’s that the angle of the sun has shifted a little, making it a bit less bright, a bit less searing, a bit less overwhelming. Maybe it’s the fact of nightfall coming a few minutes earlier each evening, and the fact that dawn doesn’t actually break now until after 6 a.m. There’s a dusty, slightly spicy scent in the air that unmistakably signals “fall,” and a few nights have cooled down to the point that the smell of frost tickled my nose. With the exception of this week, the days have been cooler, too, and some of the trees have started turning colors.
Canada geese in pairs and in small flocks pass by overhead, honking as they fly south. Sandhill cranes ride the thermals as well, their calls strange and haunting as they pass through without stopping. The gangs of robins that inhabit the tall laurel hedge along my driveway throughout the spring and summer have quieted, their numbers dwindling as they move down into the great valley ahead of the sharp mountain cold. And the deer that inhabit the forests all around us are on the move, as well. Unfortunately, I see them most often as mangled corpses along the side of the highway, the sad victims of speeding cars.
This surge of autumn energy is serving me well. It’s waking me early, pushing me outdoors. It makes me pick up the broom and sweep the dusty, spent detritus of summer off the walkways and patios. I’m compelled to neaten things up in anticipation of the glorious fall colors just waiting in the wings. I’ve even started thinking about Halloween, and what to put on our Thanksgiving dinner menu this year.
And amid all this I’m marveling at my body’s dogged resilience. I have rheumatoid arthritis and I’m in my middle 50s now, but I’m stronger and more energetic than I’d have believed a year ago. It seems that the medications I’m taking each day to fight the inexorable advance of the RA are working. Sure, I still have pain, but it’s mainly in my hands and wrists, and most of the time it’s bearable. Sure, I’ve developed bursitis in my hips, but that pain, too, has been relatively mild. I’m grateful.
Nevertheless, when I went out to stack more firewood this morning, I stopped after filling just one rack. My hands were good, but my hips were sore and I could feel myself tiring much more quickly than I did yesterday and the day before. My body was telling me to take it easy, to choose other, less strenuous chores for the day. I listened. The pile of firewood will still be there, ready for stacking, tomorrow. And autumn, my favorite time of year, has only just begun.