Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 21, 2024

A season of renewal, a season of many faces

By ROWAN LIU | November 9, 2023



Liu reflects on the transitional nature of fall.

Why is it that we associate the season of fall with endings?

The answer seems obvious when we place fall in context with the other seasons. It comes after the bright and warm vitality of summer, and it precedes the barren wasteland of winter. Naturally, we call that process of going from life to death “dying”. Thus, we could think of fall as a melancholic season of endings.

Except, looking around at the colorful landscape and the bountiful selections at farmers markets, I cannot agree with that conclusion.

Before the trees fully lose their colors and the wildlife hibernate through the cold, we reap the fruits of nature’s labor and celebrate the gift of abundance with family and friends. Fall is the season for apple-picking and harvesting vegetables from the garden. It’s the time when we prepare parties for Halloween and cook big meals for Thanksgiving. In my family, we celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival with moon cakes and reuniting over family dinners. It doesn’t elude me that both Thanksgiving and the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrate family and the harvest. Good things deserve to be celebrated twice.

And fall is full of good things! It is the season in which I take the bundles of scarves out of my closet and add them to my outfits. It is the season of spiced cider, pumpkin pies and fun holidays that I enjoy. It is the season colored with happy memories.

Fall is an enduring season. Winter is when the tilt and rotation of the Earth takes us farther away from the sun. To survive, the trees and plants and some animals shed exhaustive operations to hibernate for the cold. Our holidays, too, follow a similar pattern of converging closer with our families and friends for survival as the weather outside grows dreary. It is not death, only the appearance of it. A tactical retreat to come back brighter than before.

Fall is also the start of a new year. For those who celebrate Rosh Hashanah or Enkutatash, this is a literal statement, but it is also true for students in the U.S. The start of a new academic year takes place in fall, and while there may be some trepidation in starting a new school year, fall is the time to reinvigorate one’s education and meet peers and educators, old and new.

For me, fall is about change and reinventing the self. Perhaps I found an affinity with fall, not just because my birthday falls within the season but because it has two names, and thus it felt like a dynamic entity to me. It has many faces and complexities.

Around this time last year, I attended Hopkins under a new name. I picked Rowan for a multitude of reasons, one of which was its connection to fall. The name Rowan has its roots in the Gaelic word for the rowan tree. If you translate the word for rowan tree into Chinese you will get 花楸树 (huaqiushu). The middle character 楸 is a combination of the characters 木 (wood) and 秋 (fall). Perhaps this is because the berries of the rowan tree ripen in fall. I felt that having my name loosely associated with the season would symbolize my own flexibility, endurance, family values and celebration as the world becomes a harsher place.

From what I’ve gathered, fall seems to be more like a season of beginnings. I associate it with celebrations and partaking in the comforts of life. Fall may be the season of endings when the leaves fall and the ground sheds itself of color, but to me it is a season of endurance, survival and new beginnings.

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