Seeking Connection: Falling in love with fall

Published 11:57 am Saturday, September 22, 2018

By Erin Smith

Hades, the god of the underworld, fell in love with the beautiful Persephone and kidnapped the goddess of spring, imprisoning her in the netherworld.

Demeter, Persephone’s mother and the goddess of agriculture, became so distraught she plagued the world above with drought and darkness.

After many months without growth, Zeus begged his brother Hades to allow Persephone to return to her mother for six months each year. Persephone and Demeter are reunited on the spring equinox, marking the start of the growing season.

Today is the autumnal equinox, and the day Persephone returns to her husband in the darkness of the underworld.

As September slides into October, I always feel a bit melancholy. But just as Persephone falls into the underworld each fall, so can we tumble into the season with joy.

There is much about fall to celebrate. Less daylight means long, cozy nights curled in bed with a book and a hot mug of tea.

A new school year offers new opportunities to read and discover.

Hikes become more enjoyable with the contrast of warm days and chilly nights.

The humidity is gone, the air is crisp and the kaleidoscopic trees drop their leaves into large piles that crunch delightedly underfoot.

Puffy white clouds often scrape a gloomy, overcast day away in an instant, leaving a sky so dazzling you just know the Elysian Fields look a lot like Kentucky.

Comfy leggings and snuggly sweaters are the only necessary articles of clothing. Bonfires out back and fireplaces inside beg our attention, giving us something to stare into that isn’t a screen.

David dusts off the Crock-Pot, portending hearty stews and soups. We scour our cookbooks for new ways to cook squash and the Internet for the perfect Halloween costume.

And while I believe pumpkin spiced lattes are a sacrilege to the coffee gods, I will occasionally doctor my strong, black brew with a healthy slug of Basil Hayden’s.

A Saturday afternoon snapshot features David watching football and tending to the fire during commercials. I snuggle on the couch, my nose in a book and my foot falling asleep from the weight of Cat Stevens. Izzie naps, then cajoles us into another game of Rummikub.

A puzzle awaits on the dining room table, calling to anyone who walks by to place a piece before they go stir the aromatic white chicken chili.

The apple pie Izzie baked cools on the counter, spicing the air with a whiff of cinnamon.

We stare out to see the blue sky darken in a V as the wild geese make their way south.

If the sunny sky suddenly turns drizzly and grey, all the better. We’ll add another log to the fire and hunker down.

I think the Jewish and Muslim traditions got it right in choosing September as their new year.

Though the calendar officially deems this honor to Jan. 1, I’ve always felt the start of school is a temporal landmark that structures our perception of passing years.

The passing of time can leave us feeling nostalgic or melancholy. It’s perfectly normal to both notice the magic of the coming season while still feeling sad to close the door on the passing one.

Science calls this anticipatory anxiety, or the worry the future will be too different, too scary and we will be completely unprepared for the challenges it will bring.

Anticipatory anxiety is a false dichotomy. It tells us joy can only lie in one place, when true peace lies in an unlimited number of spaces.

This false dichotomy says if we love one season, we won’t possibly find joy in the other three.

The best way to gracefully surf the waves of anticipatory anxiety is by cultivating the power of the word “and.” Happiness can lie in flip flops and slippers, ice cream and pumpkin pie, pool parties and fall festivals, budding trees and trees stripped bare.

As the pages of the calendar flip slowly past, I will continue to think of Persephone. Though she was initially abducted, the tale goes she eventually fell madly in love with Hades and looks forward each year to her turn in the dark underworld.

I imagine her there now, wearing a Bengals jersey and adding just the right amount of hot sauce to her wings. It’s game day and she’s got some tailgating to do.

Erin Smith is the owner of the OM place in Winchester, the author of “Sensible Wellness” and the online host of the OM channel. Follow her on Twitter @erinsmithauthor.