Autumn Melancholy

When the days grow shorter and colder, the leaves change color and fall, and the sky becomes sharp and clear, I know it’s autumn. I know icy weather is ahead. I know it’s time for the heavy coat, muffler, and gloves. Fall is here, and winter’s not far behind.

During the thirteen years that I spent more time in Vietnam than in the U.S., I adapted to the tropical climate. Like most Americans there, I wore as little clothing as possible, due to the heat, and, over time, I got very tan. In the long term, my constant exposure to the sun led to skin cancer which I still cope with.

When I returned to the states, the weather felt quite cold to me. I bundled up and waited impatiently for the heat of summer. I’ve been doing that ever since. I’m not an autumn person.

But autumn means more than coldness. It means shortened times of daylight, more darkness, less time spent out of doors. Beyond all that, it brings with it an inherent sadness. My sense is that the dejection of autumn derives from seeing the season as a metaphor for the beginning of the end of life. That feeling was captured in “September Song” by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson:

Oh, it’s a long, long while

From May to December

But the days grow short

When you reach September

When the autumn weather

Turns the leaves to flame

One hasn’t got time

For the waiting game

Oh, the days dwindle down

To a precious few

September

November

And these few precious days

I’ll spend with you

These precious days

I’ll spend with you.

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