It felt weird sitting down to write this! I feel like I just finished something, having wrapped up my summer postcard series and met my goal of publishing ten short stories for the year. After that, I shared one of my favourite writing books and got to reflect on the year’s progress, which felt celebratory. That being done, sitting down to write this felt like the moment when the party’s over and everyone leaves your house and you’re sitting there in the dark with lots of solo cups, the air still warm from everyone’s presence.
In this liminal space, I started to wonder: What comes next? Will I still keep writing? Who am I??? Simmer down, I tell myself. Of course, you’ll keep writing. It’s what you do. Worrying about it is like worrying you’ll forget how to be yourself. Like you’ll get the identity yips. If you’ve ever felt the same way, I’m here to tell you: it’s perfectly okay for that to happen.
This is the perfect time of year to emerge from one tunnel, blink upwards confused at the sun for a while, then pick another tunnel to head into.
This cycle of the seasons I’ve noticed in myself, I’m not sure if it’s nature or nurture. With the onset of fall, the cool winds tease my autonomic nervous system into preparing for the next season. I subconsciously want to “start something.” I feel the urge to “go back to school,” buy a new outfit, try something new. Then in the spring, I’ll get restless and want to take off, to go somewhere, to kickstart a new migratory cycle. The birds get it.
September almost feels like “Little New Year.” The time when we reassess all our hopes and dreams and how far we’ve come so far this year. It’s a good time to take stock on your journey. The leaves haven’t even changed yet, but our minds have started to tip towards preparations and realignment for the rest of the year. The tips of the burning bush outside my house are just beginning to darken, the start of their red fade into autumn, sending the first of many visual cues of autumn. September brings Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year, when you eat honey-dipped apples to bring sweetness into your next year.
As the summer winds to a close and we head towards the fall solstice, I’m feeling this pressure, this psychic carbonation pushing on my insides telling me I need to MAKE THE LAST OF SUMMER AMAZING because IT’S BEEN A CRAZY YEAR AND WE NEED TO RELEASE THE PRESSURE! WE NEED TO ENJOY THIS. Because we’ve been through so much in the last couple of years and we’re realizing that even now, the perceived near-end of the pandemic is threatened by everything we’ve learned. We’ve learned that waves come again, that nothing is certain. We’ve had to re-evaluate everything about our lives in this new world.
I’ve heard myself describing things to friends as being in “the Before Times,” and they blithely nod. That is the world we’re living in now, where time is divided—then and now. Before the pandemic, and after. There’s been a tectonic shift in society. New islands have sprung up. New cultures have formed. Relationships and ways of living have been unexpectedly bookended. New structures are emerging.
This need to celebrate and recognize and blow off steam feels especially strong now as we round the end of summer and fall into autumn’s embrace. It’s this kind of quiet bubbling for recognition that makes one, for example, host a giant “Beermas” party in late August at the lake and make a potent potable sangria using no fruit juice or soda water (“I’ll water it down with champagne!” I said, pouringly pouring the sparkling rosé into the dispenser already full of another rosé, rhubarb liqueur, and cider—cherubic slices of orange and strawberry and mint bobbing innocently up in the alcoholic mixture—“It’ll be fine!”) that leads to the worst two-day hangover (does this mean I’m an adult now?) of my last decade. It felt horrible, but it also felt good to feel horrible because it felt like a way to mark the blowing-off-steam and chaotic energy after the last year.
And now we are here, already in our third week of September, precious few bathing suit days left (well, in Nova Scotia, anyway). I know the fall equinox is getting closer because I’ve been fighting the squirrel-like compulsion to store candles for the dark times ahead. I walk by Bath & Body Works and like a little woodland creature searching for nuts I scurry in, beady eyes hopping from candle to candle, wondering how I can get them all out without doing too much damage to my wallet.
“Bag?” a helpful sales rep says, and I squint my eyes into a masked smile and nod my furry little head. “Here ya go,” she says, and I nut-hunt around the store, smelling candles and stashing selections in my bag. I give the nice people money and then waddle away, bags stuffed full of fifteen-pound scented goods that I can bury underneath my bathroom sink to prepare for when the sun, literal giver of life, fucks off for the winter. The bastard.
Instead, I’ll smash gourd juice into my coffee like it’s the holy sacrament and hope this potion will protect me as I drag my claws out of the last days of summer and cry fallingly into the next season. It’s okay. I’m okay. You’re okay. We’re all okay. It’s just the cycle of the seasons.
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