What is it about autumn that makes us long for the past?
Every year as the mornings grow colder, I find comfort in the changing leaves, cloudy days, and simple pleasures of bygone days. I sip on warm beverages while listening to old school jazz. I wear vintage jackets and sweaters as I take long walks. I curl up next on the patio bench with a blanket and an well-used book. Everything old and traditional suddenly feels cozy and right, and I can’t help but wonder, why?
Autumn is a time of reflection.
Maybe it is just me, but I spend more time reliving old memories in Autumn. I think about old traditions of preparing for Halloween, to remembering friends I lost or haven’t seen in awhile. All my memories seem to have a glow of an autumn evening’s golden hour– that natural filter that makes everything look beautiful and warm. It’s like watching a Hallmark version of my own life. A romanticized re-enactment that’s a little too perfect and wholesome. Still, those reflections don’t bring the pain of loss that they might bring in the dead, pessimism of winter. The memories don’t bring the excitement or heightened emotion I might feel in the high-intensity of summer either. Instead, these memories are just a more pleasant echo of past experiences that bring a contented joy that my otherwise anxious spirit appreciates.
Autumn is about simple pleasures.
Almost every autumn check list or to-do list that dances across social media is full of wholesome fun. Activities like “apple picking”, “baking cookies”, and “carving pumpkins” appear on everyone’s agenda, regardless of age. Even more adventurous activities like “taking a hike” or “going to a haunted house” are encouraged to be experienced with loved ones, as if Autumn is meant to be about building bonds. Solo activities like crafting and reading classic literature are as much about self-love as they are about the season. It’s as if we have decided as a society that Autumn is meant to be a season of contentment and joy. It’s a season about finding magic in nature and the harvest (corn mazes, pumpkin patches, and fire-colored forests), but also in the cozy quite of home (warm soups, and fresh baked cookies, roaring fireplaces, and fuzzy blankets). It’s a time of year we are encouraged to embrace the joy of childhood with Halloween, with all it’s magic, mystery, energy, and enthusiasm. It is also a time we are asked to reflect on our blessings, with the American holiday of Thanksgiving. It’s as if the entire season asks that we take a moment to enjoy life for awhile, and see the world both as an imaginative child, and a pensive grandparent; embracing all the season of change, with all the joys that stay consistent.
Maybe that’s why we embrace nostalgia when autumn comes.
Maybe we continue to re-watch our favorite movies and bake our favorite treats in autumn because we want to re-capture the joy of the past. Perhaps we do traditional activities we don’t have time for any other time of year because we long for the idea of a simple life. Whether it’s an old tradition you’ve carried from year to year, or a new one you just started– there is something comforting about creating a seasonal routine. There is something re-assuring about re-reading a book that never changes, and something grounding about picking up produce at a local farm. It’s as if the nostalgia we experience in autumn re-assures that that there is consistency in world that otherwise feels chaotic. It reminds us that we are just as connected to the past as we are to the future. For one moment in the present, we can bring pieces of that golden-hued memory back for a little while. Even if that memory has been re-furbished (or even completely fabricated) to make things better, why deny ourselves the joy of a moment?