During the first few months of my freshman year in college, I fell in love. I was away from home for the first time in my life. Everything was so new and fresh, but I was lonely and desperate and in a pretty bad place. Every morning began with the disheartening realization that yes, I was still there at school…and every night ended with a gut-level sigh and one simple thought: I want to go home.
In such a hard place, it was pretty natural for me to seek comfort somewhere. It’s not unusual. Young girls everywhere find themselves, at one time or another, in a place of seeking and searching for something they can’t quite put their finger on. All things considered, there really wasn’t anything remarkable about my fresh, new, comforting romance that accompanied this fresh, new, confusing time in my life.
But I remember the day it started. I had just left my morning Spanish class and, walking down the sidewalk toward the library, I saw a bench under a multi-colored tree. Exhausted both emotionally and physically, I risked making a conspicuous fool of myself (which is actually pretty hard to do on a college campus, but a very real concern for self-conscious Enneagram 9 introverts) and laid down on the bench. Using my backpack as a pillow, I laid on the bench and looked up through the dancing yellow and red leaves, the dappled sunlight warming my face and my heart.
See? It was a beautiful tree.
A cool breeze blew down from the mountain, and in that precise moment, I fell in love. My heart burst, and I began my love affair with autumn.
For the next several weeks, I looked forward to my time on that bench every day. I would go the long route to class to have a few minutes there. I would leave lunch early to escape to my quiet place. I would disappear from my dorm room in the evenings for a secret rendezvous with my bench and my tree. As the months passed, the tree overhead changed in appearance many times, but nothing about my affection for that spot changed in the least.
Was it silly? Maybe, but I think I found more than comfort on that bench under the tree by Evans Hall. I think I found a little of myself – recaptured something that had gone missing – which tends to happen in all true love affairs.
My relationship with fall has been a beautiful one since then. I have a reputation for my eager anticipation of cooler temperatures and pumpkin patches and hot drinks by the fire. I am known for my love of boots and scarves and all things autumn. I tend to be nostalgic in October, reminiscing of those comforting early days of my love for fall as our anniversary rolls around again. This year marks our 21st year together.
Fall and I…we go way back.
But this year, we’ve hit a rough patch. In a way, fall has hurt me a little this year. I feel betrayed, and things just aren’t the way they used – or are “supposed” – to be. So far, October hasn’t been one of sweet memories, but one of trial and frustration. (For that matter, March through September weren’t so peachy, either. We allll know that.)
None of this year has felt the way it was supposed to, right? I mean, back in January we all had fanciful visions of what a 20/20 year would be like, and come March we were all proverbially punched in the face. Nothing was the way it was supposed to be.
My daughter, for instance, finished fifth grade in the spring. All of the much-anticipated celebrations of the end of elementary school? Gone. In the blink of an eye, everything we had all looked forward to about that milestone was ripped away. No big end-of-year field trips. No STEAM competition. No chorus concert. No award ceremony.
Gone. Nope. Not happening.
So spring wasn’t quite the way it was supposed to be, and then summer continued the theme of disappointment, but fall? It was supposed to be better. We assumed were going to turn around by the end of August, right? We’d be back to normal and the kids could maybe go to school like normal and we wouldn’t have to wear masks and we could all just go back to life the way it was on March 13th. (In my part of the country, the dumpster fire that has been 2020 was truly ignited on March 14th, when churches decided to cancel and schools were preparing for the worst and the news was just starting to get scary.) That was the hope, anyway. I think we all know how that turned out.
So fall and I…we aren’t getting along very well. It was supposed to behave one way and is not holding up its end of the deal. Our relationship is in trouble. I honestly kind of just want it to go away if it can’t behave itself.
One of my all-time favorite shows is Gilmore Girls. If you aren’t familiar with the show, one of the main characters – Lorelai Gilmore – has a true love affair with snow. “Flakes, flurries, swirls, crystals, whatever form it comes in. I’ll take it,” she says. “We go back, snow and me. We have a beautiful history.”
She anticipates it. She relishes it. She becomes childlike in her wonderment of it and pulls everyone she knows into the joy of the season with her. It seems silly to everyone but her – and me. I get it.
In one episode, though, snow betrays her. Snow drifts block her favorite things and frozen limbs fall on her car and business suffers. She and snow, as she says, are through. The relationship is soured and they’re breaking up. As silly as Lorelai is at times, I have to say that this year, this month, today, I totally understand where she is coming from. Certain times of year – of life – are supposed to be one way, and when they aren’t….well, the unpredictability of life slaps us in the face and we once again realize that we have no control over how it all falls into place.
But at just about the time that we are ready to crawl into a hole (or a nice warm bed with a ridiculous number of blankets), something begins to change. Autumn begins to change to winter…then spring makes the ice melt……the cloud of depression begins to lift, and we are reminded that seasons aren’t forever. Seasons pass, whether with the flip of calendar pages or the healing that comes with time. Good or bad, anticipated or dreaded, relished or repulsive, they don’t last forever. Eventually, all seasons must pass.
This year, I’m holding on to the hard and true fact that seasons change, time passes, and things will eventually get better. We always have that hope…and yes, it’s okay to hope. We’ve been disappointed so many times this year that it’s hard to convince ourselves to look forward to anything, but hope still wins. We don’t want to be the kind of people who look at life expecting the worst. We don’t want to become cynical and crotchety and angry at life. That’s no way to live.
So we have hope. Always.
I have hope for the rest of fall. I do. I have hope for Christmas and the new year and all the things it will bring. I have hope for tomorrow, even. I have hope that even though my relationship with autumn has hit a rough patch, as all relationships do, things will get better.
My God is still the God who thought up the whole idea of seasons, and who thought it’d be a neat idea for leaves to change color and the angle of sunlight to illuminate the world in a golden glow during the month of October. He is still God, and He still promises that while things may be bad for a bit, they will get better.
That was true for me during my freshman year of college, when all I wanted to do was go home.
That’s equally true for me this year, when life is rough and adulting is hard and I long for my heavenly home.
Seasons pass. Times change. God’s God through it all, and there is never a day or a place or a season that is so bad that He can’t turn it around.
So friend, wherever you are today, and in whatever season you find yourself, take heart that it will pass. Seasons change, for better or worse, but God is always God. That much we can count on.
Right here with you,