By: Rachel Sircy
My favorite season has begun. Autumn always seems to suddenly appear just when I feel that I have had all the summer I can stand for one year. I always picture the progression of a year as another loop in the rollercoaster called life. On January 1st, we find ourselves at the lowest point on the circle and we run upward and counterclockwise through spring. We are fully upside down in the warmest and brightest days of summer. By mid-September, we begin our descent into the dark days of winter, and we all know that falling is the best part of any theme-park ride.
At the risk of being thought a weirdo, I am going to admit that I am a person who does not like to listen to music for its own sake. I would almost always rather hear a book on tape than a song on the radio, but this time of year I begin to crave music. My taste in music is at once eclectic and limited. I listen to gospel music year round for inspiration and edification, but, in the Fall, the little girl I used to be wakes up and demands Vince Guaraldi’s Peanuts music round the clock. The Great Pumpkin Waltz and the Thanksgiving Theme song have been played so many times that my CDs are wearing out. The part of me that is a true hillbilly – I originally hail from the Appalachian foothills of Ohio – demands instrumental Bluegrass, Alison Krauss and the Cox Family’s country gospel album, and one Stephen Foster song, Hard Times Come Again No More, as performed by James Taylor and Yo-Yo Ma, to remind me of my home and my family across the Ohio foothills and the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. To me, music is typically a tool to accentuate the feelings associated with time and place. These songs bring out the Fall-ishness of Fall for me, just as salt draws out a food’s natural flavor.
Autumn’s great appeal is that it is paradoxically warm and wistful. We decorate with food – pumpkins, corn, squash – and with cornucopias and pictures of turkeys. We surround ourselves with images of plenty and we have a feast day set aside for the purpose of remembering to be grateful that those decorations are not merely the stuff of fantasy. And yet, the evening comes on sooner, the weather turns colder, we find ourselves too often indoors, and the impending Christmas season often causes more anxiety than joy. I know quite a few people who become depressed this time of year.
To those people, I would like to say that I understand. The saddest time of the year for me is February. It’s just that month when winter is still going strong, but there aren’t any family get-togethers or holidays or gift exchanges to look forward to. You just hunker down and pray to God that that stupid groundhog sees his shadow. Or doesn’t see his shadow. Truth be told, I don’t really know how the whole groundhog trick works. I know that February has Valentine’s Day, but Valentine’s Day rates as #2 on my list of tackiest holidays. Someday, maybe someday soon, I will publish my list of tackiest holidays in a blog post. I have softened on Valentine’s Day quite a bit since I was a teenager. My husband and my daughter make it kind of fun, but I have fun under protest. Pink, purple and red just do not go together and I feel like my eyes are being assaulted by Valentine’s decorations every year.
Anyway, I say all of this to tell you that I understand the feeling of seasonal depression and anxiety. But, I would like to offer a suggestion to anyone who feels blue this time of year: consider Fall a challenge. It is a two-sided coin, but a person doesn’t have to leave the side they land on to random chance. Cynicism is a monster that I seem to fight over and over again in my life. However, I think that with God’s help we can be vehicles for a very unnatural goodness. You can’t wait for times and seasons to make you happy. You have to make yourself happy in them. Every year when I was a kid I watched the Peanuts Halloween special – despite the fact that my family, as Christians, did not celebrate Halloween. I guess they figured a little cartoon from the 60’s couldn’t hurt too much. It is undoubtedly one of the weirdest cartoons I’ve ever seen and, in the end, Sally and Linus and Charlie Brown all end up pretty unhappy. Sally doesn’t get any candy, Linus doesn’t get to see the Great Pumpkin, and the girls at the Halloween party use Charlie Brown’s head as a model for their jack o’ lantern and his trick or treat bag is full of rocks. But Linus, as ever, has a great line that, like my Autumn playlist, brings out best flavor of the season.
Linus says: “You can look around and there’s not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.”
Perhaps all those years of watching Linus skip out on the trick-or-treating and the partying of the Halloween special made me feel that Fall can be a season of sincerity. The way to love this time of waning daylight, this twilight of the year, is to choose to create an atmosphere free of hypocrisy and selfishness. The pleasures of heat and sun are beginning to be over, but they will come again next year right on schedule. It is time now to turn our thoughts to harvest, to plenty and, in my mind, to casting our bread upon the water.
In an effort to rid myself of any signs of hypocrisy and surround myself with sincerity (those are two separate acts, you know. You can easily rid yourself of hypocrisy only to be surrounded by nothing) I am going to attempt these three things:
- Make a list of things I am truly grateful for and hang them where I will see them every day.
- Skip out on Black Friday specials and instead give a little of my Thanksgiving and Christmas money to Harvest Hope.
- Be friendlier. My goal is to share not just food or money with someone in need. I plan to share time and friendship with as many people as I possibly can this Autumn.
If you feel a little down in the dumps this season, forget the candy and bobbing for apples and take the opportunity to sit in the pumpkin patch with Linus. It may be the craziest thing you ever do, but it just might make you feel better.
Suggested Reading: To Autumn, by John Keats