It’s happening again. Everywhere I turn (online, anyway) someone’s talking sweater weather or apple picking or root vegetable stew. A native Wisconsinite (never mind the 16 years I’ve been away), I immediately wax nostalgic at the very mention of a pie pumpkin, half-expect to see sugar maples instead of coconut palms every time I look out my window and have even tried to will our cedro into blushing, glowing crimson, then lightening her load. (It hasn’t happened…yet.)
Last year this time, fresh in Tulum and totally green to the tropics, I really struggled with the idea of year-round summer. I tried to make the most of it — stuffing squash and sewing pumpkins and imagining the clearly weeks-old, would-be-rotten-if-not-for-their-genetically-confused-lifespan imported apples at our local grocery being hand-picked for me by a kind-eyed farmer who loves his family second only to his orchard — but I wasn’t satisfied. I still wanted Autumn as I knew she could be.
But this year’s been different. Something shifted. Whether I realized the impermanence of this crazy-beautiful (and just plain crazy) time in our lives, had never before thought to seek the seasons in the turn of the tide, or simply needed a year’s worth of familiar to soften the exotic, I was able to catch my story, recognize the way it drained me and choose another one.
It goes something like this:
The autumns of my youth were amazing, no doubt, but no more potentially amazing than the autumn of my 36th year. And if I truly believe that; if the gifts of this season really are as abundant and immediate as any other, then a pursuit of pumpkins where they aren’t meant to be would actually distract me from the joy I am seeking and detract from the riches most readily available.
And as so often happens when I tell a truer story, I was then able to see other truths wrapped up in the same package:
Like how bombarded we are by images of autumn and suggested seasonal sensations and the promise of pleasure through a pumpkin-y purchase.
Like how marketers are nostalgia experts, often more in tune with our rhythm than we are and “satiating” our need for nature’s pulse with sale-priced knock-offs.
Like that for every experience of a season we’re being sold, there are a million more being given that require no more investment than increased awareness.
And of course, once you open those gates, good luck containing the rest of the confusion clouding consumer culture:
We are sold the concept of beauty through youth, sex appeal and “perfected” appearances. But beauty is also available free of charge, independent of age and because of our “imperfections.”
We are sold the notion of progress through domination, speed and efficiency. Progress is also available every time we decide to allow an experience to expand our consciousness.
We are sold the notion of “home” as a thing requiring constant improvement. Home is also independent of place and no more in need of renovation than the hearts dwelling within it.
It’s a pretty new phenomenon, if you think about it. Not nostalgia, nor the longing for time or place, nor the concepts of betterment and achievement. But the overgeneralization of what a season should look like or how a holiday should feel, or how beauty ought to be defined.
You know what, though? I buy it less and less. And every time I choose the freebies: the gift of now, the sensations of this season, the beauty right beside me, I never think, “Man, I need a pumpkin.” Because the truth is, I never do.
And to think, Autumn was just as generous last year…