The Joys of the Fall Season

For some, saying goodbye to the summer season is a difficult thing to do. For others, welcoming the fall season means preparing for a period of bright colors, cool weather, and a series of holidays. From a personal standpoint, I rejoice at the first sign of “sweater weather.”

Fall, otherwise known as autumn, is full of great weather, good food, and fun activities. The season is perfect for taking a visit to a cider mill, spending time with friends around the campfire, or simply enjoying the scenery. Sunsets in the fall present a brilliant orange hue unlike any other, and the darker, cooler starry nights often seem magical. Vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows cover maple trees, allowing you to gaze at an artistic masterpiece just by looking out the window. Fall is a great time to take a walk outside, as there’s something satisfying about walking under a canopy of fall foliage and hearing the sound of crunching leaves underfoot. In addition to providing natural beauty, the season presents an opportunity for growth, as fall brings a new school year and new experiences.

Fall is a busy time, packed full of events and activities to look forward to. Holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas mean plenty of celebrating. There’s also a galore of fun things to do, as the fall season is a great time to go camping, hiking, and more. Seasonal activities such as picking apples, attending a college football game, or conquering a corn maze are great ways to make memories with loved ones. Furthermore, there are opportunities to carve pumpkins, go on a hayride, and share delicious food with family. Along the topic of food, there’s plenty of it, including an abundance of pumpkin pie and sweet potatoes. In addition to traditional seasonal delicacies, there’s apple and pumpkin everything, including that pumpkin spiced latte you love to post about on Snapchat.

Another wonderful thing about fall is the weather. Cold drizzles indicate that it’s the perfect time to light a fire in the fireplace and snuggle up with a cup of tea or hot cider. The words “cute,” “comfy,” and “cozy” come to mind when breaking out the suede boots and fuzzy blankets, as the first slight chill in the air calls for donning comfy sweaters and scarves in preparation for the cooler temperatures. Instead of worrying about drowning in sweat or getting a sunburn, you have the chance to decide which oversized jacket or flannel to wear next.

On a deeper level, fall serves as a reminder of the changing nature of life. During this time, the life cycle of many plants finishes or turns into the other stages, with the dead leaves on the ground disintegrating and turning into part of the soil. The change in scenery presents an opportunity to reflect on the impermanence of things, with the need for us to continuously grow and embrace the present. As such, fall is a great time to think about what we are thankful for. With so many different holidays and activities, it is perfect for cherishing and spending time with loved ones. Overall, fall gives a sense of comfort, fun, and reflection that makes it a truly unique and enjoyable season.

Fall Decorations

Happy Halloween!  It is a little late to decorate your dorm room/apartment/house for Halloween, but don’t start putting out your Christmas decorations yet.  You can still decorate for the fall season. Here are some fall decoration ideas that will help you celebrate the season.

My house is always decorated with hay bales and corn stalks on our front porch.  This is generally decorated with our Halloween decorations of spider webs and ghosts in the front yard, but after Halloween we take down the Halloween decorations but keep up the corn stalks and hay bales.

An easy decoration for the fall season is to put fake orange, yellow, and red leaves around your house.  You can put them around the coffee table, in bowls, and on ledges. This will give your apartment color and make it brighter so that your apartment is not so dark as the sun sets earlier in the fall.

Another way to make your apartment or house brighter is to buy and light fall scented candles.  This will not only light up your home but it will also make your home smell like fall. This is not a good idea for a dorm room because you are not allowed to have candles in the dorms.  Having a couple different scented candles will mix things up with your house always smelling wonderful.

An alternative to candles if you do not have a lighter or are not allowed to have them, like in dorm rooms, is a scent that you plug into the wall that will dispense a specific scent throughout the day.  This is also more discrete and does not take up much room in your home.

Other ways to decorate for fall that are not Halloween related are to have pumpkins on the inside or the outside of your house.  Pumpkins are not just for Halloween, jack-o-lanterns are for Halloween. If you have pumpkins that are not carved then you can use them for decorations until Thanksgiving.  You can potentially have painted pumpkins to decorate for fall, but the paint has to be a neutral pattern and cannot be too loud. A silver or white painted pumpkin with polka dots or chevron pattern is good for decorations, but a teenage mutant ninja turtle pumpkin is not a fall decoration.

The last way that you can decorate for fall is to have fall hand towels, kitchen towels, and bathroom towels throughout your home.  These decorations are great because they are also useful. Towels are bold enough for people to notice and so you do not have to have many other decorations because towels are in almost every room in a house.  The towels are also useful and have a purpose so they serve two purposes.

Fall Tropes

Every season has fun activities that people associate with it and they look forward to doing these activities when the season gets closer.  The activities tend to vary based on where you live because the weather tends to dictate what activities are doable. It in the Midwest activities for summer are going to the beach and playing in a pool, for winter it’s sledding and building snowmen and having a fire indoors, for spring it’s being able to not wear winter coats and walking outside again, and for fall it’s pumpkin carving and sweater weather.  Fall has a range of activities that people look forward to based on their interests in particular.

A lot of fall activities rely around Halloween, because Halloween is the main event that happens during the season.  Some Halloween fall related activities include haunted houses, trick or treating, and Halloween parades. These activities are directly related to Halloween, but a lot of other fall activities are associated with Halloween even though they are not directly related to it.  Some of these activities include pumpkin picking, apple orchards, and corn mazes. While carving pumpkins is a specific Halloween activity, going pumpkin picking is not. These activities get lumped into the same category because they happen around the same time because November might be too cold to do them.

Other fall activities are not related to Halloween, but are related to being back to school.  The main thing that this includes is football season. Fall is the season for high school, college, and professional football.  While professional football continues into the winter, high school and college generally do not. This means that for a lot of people across America, the leaves changing colors means football seasons and Saturdays being taken over by tailgates and football games.  This is especially true at the University of Michigan. Game day is the most popular day of the week for the entirety of football season (a.k.a. fall).

Fall also means seasonal retail items, mostly pumpkin flavored things.  Only in the fall can one find pumpkin bread and pie at the grocery store, and a pumpkin latte at Starbucks.  This is when people go overboard of consuming their favorite fall themed things, not only food. Fall scented candles and decorations with leaves and acorns on them also increase because they reflect the weather.

This happens with each season, fall is just particularly noticeable because people associate so many things with this one season unlike the others.

The Art of Getting Through

Art has a “so-what” element to it. Does it make me feel special? Does it make me feel alive? Do I learn something? Does it give me a different perspective? Does it make me question hidden assumptions about the world?

OR. Does it surprise me?

My life is currently dominated by a couple things: a horrendous cough, my thesis, and extreme amounts of existential dread.

Every life is art, though–the best ones are. Mine is like Guernica. Mine is like being in Fight Club and not having any idea what’s going on. Mine is like Azealia Banks chanting that she’s going to ruin me. Terrifying. Surprising. Wonderful?

What is the “so-what” element to things these days? My self-esteem was squashed about 3 months ago when my advisor asked me where my thesis’s argument is and 3 months later . . . my argument is like the groundhog hiding from its shadow. Now I am the groundhog and my thesis is the sun. I’m hiding.

Rather, not hiding but just avoiding–my cold let’s me do this. Napping, chewing raw ginger, swallowing a pharmacy of vitamins and medicine, sitting 5 inches away from my humidifier. My thesis is over there while I’m over here.

But I guess this is a new way of life? I know I will reach my DEADlines but getting there is the struggle? The goal?

My thesis has shown me how something, one thing that will hopefully get me into grad school, put a foot in some academic door somewhere somehow, can take over your life entirely. Giving yourself over to something you (used) to love, ha, still do, is beautiful? Surprising? Terrifying?

“Oh my gosh, Taylor, this week has been so awful, what am I supposed to do?”
“Well Toni Morrison has an answer. Its in the Consolata section of Paradise, let me flip to the page.”

“TAYLOR, I was staring at old photographs of my ex and they seemed to shift? change?”
“STAHP, that’s just like the ending of Beloved where I still have no idea what’s going on even though its in my thesis . . . wait. Is Morrison talking through you? Are you a Morrison oracle?”

There is an extreme irony about tracing Morrison’s theory of healing when I need to heal from the thesis process.

I walk down the road looking at the city of Ann Arbor imagining it is the City Morrison describes in Jazz. I look in the mirror and see Beloved’s face. I go to a friends house and imagine it to be Paradise’s convent pre-raid and pre-slaughter.

For now I have to give into the delusions/hallucinations/reality of certain books projecting so far into my life that I have become my own character. My agency is just the narrator of myself scripting myself and positioning myself in the world.

?

The art of getting through is perserverence. It’s taking naps when I’m tired. It’s eating throughout the entire day. It’s only listening to Le1f. It’s hanging out with friends for brief snippets everyday. It’s making angsty and somewhat frightening facebook statuses so you can tell the world that you are on the edge (of glory).

I hope when my thesis is turned in, when I get my degree, and when I’m months out from undergrad, I can say that things were surprising. Things made me question my hidden assumptions. Things made me reevaluate the world.

I am the art, for now. And give me a few months where I can become my own audience. I can’t see the “so-what” now, but I will. I will.

“Say make me, remake me.”

 

Look Towards The Light

It’s about that time of the year, or, perhaps, way past that moment when Fall darkness sets in. I get home from class and work in the dark, I study and write in the dark, I socialize in the dark, and during the day (which is usually dark because Michigan) I’m kept inside tiny rooms within more rooms within more rooms. Life in winter is kafkaesque. Work seems to pile up around me and I’m overwhelmed. But there is something else going on entirely under my skin.

I used to romanticize the winter melancholia that would set in every year. I would feel terrible and love it. Wear moody clothing, quote Kierkegaard and Sartre about existential dread, and drink pots and pots of coffee so I could be not only be sad but also be ecstatically sad, performatively sad. My grades always seemed to suffer only a bit near the end of Fall semesters, which I attributed to the end of term finish line haze of terror; I usually ended up not exactly in fights but friendships always had more tension; and I would leave most social events angry. And then I’d be alone. And then angrier. I would look at my work and realize that I had no motivation to muster and that motivation seemed to exist only outside, in the leaves freshly fallen, decaying.

Last weekend, in particular, I felt I had to internalize “I had fun” so that when people asked me “How was your weekend?” I wouldn’t reply “real shitty.” People respond poorly to negative things, or I find that people build on the negativity, and I didn’t need more bad reactions. Little things got in the way, moments that were unexpected set me off into a chain of dizzying apathy, I began to really sink into the sadness and “thrive” there (aka more of me convincing that I’m fine). And then after watching Scandal on Saturday (which is a whole other thing that needs to be unpacked) I realized that I was NOT okay.

Now I had been to CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) before. After two semi-failed attempts at having therapy sessions, “Why do you feel this way?” “Well Heidegger in Being and Time  says this . . . and then Nietzsche really compliments this by . . . and the existential void, no? THE VOID.” In the end all of my problems seemed to come up philosophy (which is partially beautiful I have to say). But another factor that cropped up was the time of the year. Fall-into-Winter and Winter were dreadful to live through and then Spring and Summer were pretty much fantastic.

Adventuring to CAPS for different reasons also helped me be aware of the Wellness Zone, which, I have to say, is currently saving my happiness.

SUN SQUARES. These (roughly) two feet by two feet fluorescent-but-not faux sunlight containers that flood your body and eyes with an impenetrable light seem a bit terrifying. The Wellness Zone, in general, has soft mood lighting that is pretty much stomped out by this (amazing) light box. I feel like I’m a flower, or some weird vegetation, or some creature of the future.

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I have heard of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) before this moment, but I was not only angered at the passive aggressiveness of the name, “oh you’re sad, aw it’s the season *pinches cheek and shines a flashlight on you*.” And I have an aversion to a lot of mental health diagnoses that is due to, in part, the medical-industrial complex, corporatization and pathologization of health, etc. So, while I may not technically be diagnosed with anything, these sun boxes are extinguishing my autumntime/wintertime/no-sunlight-time overwhelming, life crippling, perpetual state of mourning.

But I wouldn’t be a humanities senior if I didn’t stare into, or just slightly off of, these boxes without imagining them framed in a museum, or put in hallways, or dorms, or classrooms. All of health I have problems with, especially mental health, because most services or areas of help are tucked away (3rd floor union, Wellness Zone in the back) out of reach/sight and they aren’t often advertised (well or enough). What if we could hang these modern art pieces, because to me that’s partially what they are, all around campus during the winter and flood everyone (albeit this is problematic) with artificial sunlight. A bit much, no? maybe not?

What does it mean for a square of designed stuff to cause happiness? Or destroy sadness? I mean, I partially don’t believe it still– but it works. So what’s to say? “Well this artwork affects me so much that I just have an overwhelming sense of OK.” If I were an artist, this would be my art.

When talking with friends, however, when they ask me how I’m doing this week, I’ve replied, “THESE SUNLIGHT BOXES OF JOY.” It gets people thinking and many have reached out for more information. When I feel this way its a problem, but when all of my friends act this way and try to unpack their feelings, its overwhelming, problematic, and we need the sun to come back.
This experience for me has been life-changing. Every morning I go to CAPS on the third floor of the union, next to where I work (Spectrum Center), and read or write (like now) in front of a light box. Everyday I leave a bit giggly (sunlight always makes me WAY happy) to live my life.

It’s important to talk about success. It’s important to share success.

And my success is feeling amazing.