It’s fall again, and the same sense of combined dread and crispness that always hits me this time of year is slamming down now like a freight train. The crispness comes from the obvious sense of the night-cool air and the first hint of frost sweeping in on the changing of the daylight wind. The dread comes from being forced to remember how many times previously you’ve felt this hint of frost before.
Fall is the season that speaks most strongly of transition. The line between summer and fall is sharp like fresh-cut glass in a way that no other boundary between seasons is. Fall to winter is a continuum of moody darkness, a fading mesh of grey lines burned black and bleached white in a crucible of frost and shorter days. Winter to spring is more physically abrupt but less visceral. Spring creeps up on you, a hint of green change that swallows the memory of winter, so that by the time winter truly goes, you’ve already lost touch with what it was and what it meant. Spring to summer is a continuum of settling idleness and ever-lengthening days that mask their own transition.
But summer to fall is a sudden hammerstroke of time advancing and tightening around you to drag you forward with it. Fall is the sudden splintering sensation of the previous year as it cracks underfoot and pulls you down into the shadowy space that memory makes. Fall is the realization that summer, spring, and the winter before have come and gone and left you, and that you stand on a familiar rise of seasonal insight, wondering where the all the time went since the time before.
The dread of fall lies in feeling the lingering modal memory of every other fall, every other instance of this chill transition, all of them echoing each other in your mind. And with each echo, you feel the space of your life stretched out a little thinner, a little bit finer. You feel the chill a little deeper than you did the year before, realizing that on some now-unseen point on the line of seasons, you’ve passed the point where the seasons before you now exceed the seasons ahead.