This Dawg Is A Mellon Collie

fallThe fall season brings so many emotions to my brain but these days the one emotion that seems to dominate during this time of year is one of melancholy.  The season means many different things to me now than it did when I was a kid.

When I was younger, fall meant a great time to play football outdoors.  It meant diving into huge leaf piles, a new school year, and in high school, it meant the chance to meet new people at all the weekend parties.

However, as we grow older the meaning of the seasons and the emotions one experiences during them tend to change.  Fall is like a bridge leading from my favorite season, summer, into my least favorite season, winter.  It’s the harsh realization that summer is over.  I love summer.  I love all the green on the trees, the warmth and the freedom I feel.  I never complain about the heat and humidity of summer only because I hate the biting, stinging cold of winter so much.  Maybe the reason I get so melancholy in the fall is because right behind it comes winter, the time of the year I can really do without.

Fall represents a lot of hard work to me.  The time to cut the grass is over and it’s replaced by clearing leaves out of the yard and putting the things of summer away.  As I say goodbye for another year to the things that remind me of summer I do so knowing what’s coming and it naturally causes me to reflect.  This past summer I had the best summer since Kim and I were married.

We used to go to Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire every weekend from spring through fall.  Although that destination should make one relaxed and stress free it did everything but for me.  It meant getting everything done around the house during the period of Monday through Thursday.  Then, as soon as we got home from work on Friday afternoon, it was time to pack up the dogs and go jump into the bullshit traffic involved with getting to any resort destination on a Friday.  Hardly a stress reliever.  Then every Sunday afternoon we did the same thing in reverse and then started the entire circle all over again as soon as we’d get home.  What was initially a fun, novel thing to do on weekends turned into drudgery.  It’s true, too much of a good thing isn’t necessarily all that great.  Maybe that’s why a vacation has a beginning and an end.  If it went on forever it would no longer be a vacation.

This passed year we reclaimed our lives and stayed home every weekend.  It was the stress reliever I was looking for, and each weekend became something we looked forward to, spending them relaxing at home in our back yard with the dogs.  No putting up with traffic, no condensed weekly schedule, and no stress.  Now as I pack the summer things away I can’t help but think back on it and I get a little sad knowing I have to wait eight more months for those feelings to visit again.  Fall forces me to temporarily give up on the things I enjoy most.

Because of where we live, we get a mind-numbing amount of leaves that have to be cleared from the yard in the fall.  I’m lucky if I can get it done with decent weather and without suffering all the pain and soreness associated with using muscles I’m not used to using.  I’m not lucky that often.  I continue blowing leaves right up to Christmas Eve some years.  We cut all the perennials down and when we’re done, just before the first snow, everything looks so gray and cold in the yard.  No colorful blooms on the rose bushes, no leaves on the trees, no freshly cut green grass with that great freshly cut scent.

Then I begin to notice the inevitable decrease in daylight.  I am one of those people who suffers when the amount of natural daylight decreases.  I get up in the morning and it’s dark outside.  I come home in the afternoon and it’s dark outside.  If it’s a cloudy day I am doomed to a higher degree.  The lack of light makes each day seem shorter and I long for longer days at all times of the year as it is.  It just seems to exude a hopelessness into my spirit.  I think it’s that hopelessness that brings on my melancholy outlook.

I used to love the wintertime.  When I was a kid, we’d get home from school and put on some layers of clothing and run down to the frozen lake to play hockey.  It seemed like everyone in our neighborhood played and there were always enough people to put together teams big enough to play the game right.  Afterward it was the four of us boys sitting at the table savoring hot chocolate prepared by my mom.  As we got older we replaced hockey with building refuge in the woods so we’d have a place to party.  The cold never really seemed to bother me then, but it does now.  Maybe because of all the arthritis I have in my knees and hips.  Maybe it’s just because in general, winter makes me uncomfortable.

Nowadays my outdoor exposure to winter consists of running from my truck to inside wherever it is I’m going and clearing snow off ihatewintermy driveway.  Great fun.  In New England we never seem to get just a dusting of snow and we never seem to just get snow in any given storm.  It’s always at least eight inches of snow followed by an inch of freezing rain.  As they call it in New England, it’s a “wintry mix”.  I hate that phrase with a passion.

The one part of winter I do actually enjoy is at night when the moon is full and I’m out snow blowing the driveway.  I’ll pause, shut off the machine, and enjoy the crispness and quiet of the night, made more enjoyable when my neighbor is burning a select kind of wood in his wood stove.  That smell, on a brittle, frozen winter night with the moon hanging high in the sky is my one and only enjoyable outdoor moment during that season.  I breathe it in and it calms me.  Sometimes my neighbor across the street will suspend his snow blowing long enough to join me for a few beers at the street’s edge.  We bring out several and keep them cold in a snow bank while they wait to meet their final destination in the warmth of my stomach.

In the end, the only thing that drives me through winter is knowing that with each passing day spring draws closer with the guarantee of another summer.  The return of leaves on the trees, birds making their nests and diving into the afternoon.  The warmth of the sun that soothes me comes back and brings my joints back into working order.  I love watching the transition from spring to summer as things come back to life and bud and bloom.

For now, though, the state of being melancholy rules over my soul with each leaf that descends gently from a tree and with each degree that falls from the thermometer.  The good thing is all seasons come and go and I know, as long as I stay alive, fall will ultimately bring the summer again, which is why melancholy stems depression.  As with all emotions, it’s just a cycle to endure with the other side being hope and warmth.  Take it day by day and eventually this melancholy feeling will be replaced by the excitement spring offers, then the exuberance that summer allows.

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