It’s fall again, but this year is a little different. To me, fall is the time to reflect, to daydream about summer beach days and the tide rising to fill its vacancy, to remember the sunny shirtless days I spent on the roof reading The Alchemist and Where the Crawdads Sing — but more importantly, it’s the time to hunker down, to prepare for winter on the horizon.
My apologies to the chionophiles reading this, but I hate winter. It’s so cold and so dark that for me, it often feels like the day hasn’t begun and that it never will.
Many people feel this way. The seasons have a great impact on our mood, our activities and on our health. But for me, it’s not the change in wind patterns or barometric pressure that dampens my mood. It’s the idea of change.
As humans, we change and evolve every day. We run through cells like cups of coffee. We accommodate disruptions to routine: classes canceled for the day, the friend who needs help with a difficult assignment, discovering a white hair on your head (the most dire of all tragedies). Everything is constantly changing, so you might inquire, “Why does the falling of leaves bother you so much?”
I love the array of autumn’s pigments. I could sing their praises all day. But what was so wrong with the strong willow oak in front of my apartment? It’s like every day I watch it wither more and more into nonexistence, a skeleton, another thing to grieve. A counselor once told me we grieve for the person we used to be, and this year, I think I finally believe her.
The Wishing Well
It’s fall, which means the yellowing of leaves,
the clock falling back an hour,
an extra hour of sleep,
an extra hour of darkness.
But must darkness be a bad thing?
In darkness, we light fires, huddle
around the flame of memory,
its welcoming scent strewn
with pine needle and ash.
In darkness, astral bodies shimmer
like lovers painted in strobe light.
In darkness, we dream
of sunflower fields, walk the rim
of a wishing well, where I drop you,
my last penny, into the pond
When I was writing this poem, I thought about how my parents used to take my sister and me to the Jack London Square Farmers Market in Oakland, Calif. where I’m from. There used to be a Barnes & Noble at the end of all the zucchini and strawberry stands; I always looked forward to getting a book at the day’s end. Usually, they were about animals or dinosaurs or mystery novels. It’s been at least 10 years since the store was torn down to build an arcade/bocce court/bowling alley/restaurant.
A fountain at the end of the block remains. I remember walking along the edges and begging my mom for pennies so I could make a wish. It seems so silly looking back — I mean, I was only a kid with no clue about what lay ahead.
But I remember reciting an incantation in my head each time I let the last penny drop from my fingers, something along the lines of, “With this, I drop my final penny and ask you — ” and then I’d make my wish. I’m not sure if the “you” I was praying to was a Higher Power or whether I really believed a single penny could grant me my mind’s desires. I used to wish for “all the children in the world to be happy” and “the biggest LEGO set for Christmas” and other such things. I never got what I wished for.
So I turned it into a game. Once I realized that a penny has no power in a world full of hatred and greed, I would wish for the impossible. With every birthday candle and four-leaf clover, I wished for things like love, death, good health, for my grandma to be undead. I built this paradoxical reality for myself to prove that I could never be happy, never be satisfied with my life. It consumed me. Each year, I threw myself a pity party and wondered why nobody accepted the invitation.
It’s taken a lot of change and growth to help me realize what I was doing regardless of whether I was conscious of it or not. Don’t get me wrong, I still wish for all those things. I wish for a love only I can give myself, an accepting, comforting, unconditional love for the skin I walk in each day. And some days, the pain of living (physical and mental) makes me wish I won’t wake up in the morning. Like it was that easy.
I still wish for good health, something which cannot be quantified but rests in the determination of the individual. While I can’t cure physical pain and illness, I can decide to live a healthy life — to eat well, exercise, maintain good sleep habits and spend time with those I love.
The most difficult change is that what is lost is lost forever. But isn’t there something beautiful about it? We lose and lose and lose until we think there’s nothing left to lose, our bodies hollow as chocolate bunnies. Yet, we still keep going, keep learning, keep exploring more of the world, of ourselves.
This fall, I vow to let change in but also to let myself resist it. We are gifted with self-determination; our lives are only ours to live. We must never relinquish autonomy to a partner, a parent, a whole season. I don’t know what will happen this fall. It’s been over a year since she died and with each day that passes I miss her more and more.
However, I find that this is because each day I discover something new I want to tell her about: a poem I wrote, the kind words of a professor, the loud neighbor that woke me up at 2 a.m. We are meant to change. We are meant to grow. Change is something I will never be able to fully accept. It terrifies me. But isn’t it exciting to see the person you’ll be tomorrow, next week, next year? I am so excited for the person you’ll become.
Christian Paulisich is a junior from San Leandro, Calif. studying Medicine, Science and the Humanities and Psychology.