In defense of the butterfly effect: Warm fall, slow change

To state the unmistakeable, the seasons are changing. The sun starts to fade more quickly each day, but the sky retains its stark Massachusetts blue. It’s good to let the breeze in; you open the window before you leave. Later you come back and the room is fresh and slightly chilly, the scent of wet leaves present but maddeningly subtle. Autumn seeps in gently like this, our welcome guest. See, summer brings too much anticipation, and winter sulks in an unenthusiastic din. Spring had nearly abandoned us there for a second. But autumn is golden, winter’s marketing intern, getting its foot in the door before you’ve got a chance to double take.

Besides autumn’s gentleness, two elements in particular make for its spot as a favorite. The first is obvious, even in the early days: the world makes its transformation into a kind of sensory theme park. The chlorophyll on the surface of leaves, which makes for their greenness, ebbs as the temperature drops. It is not uncommon to walk past a tree that is entirely orange (!). The array of reds, yellows and browns explode, having saved their drama underneath the green surface this entire time. As they collect and pile atop each other, leaves release the layered and subtle smell that’s surprisingly intoxicating, considering its rot. Food takes on this same character, with spicy and earthy flavors alike waking up in your mouth, seeming to come out of nowhere. Having the sun fall on your bare skin without the burn is so easy, so pleasant, and the combination of all these things at once is Hallelujah.

The second particular could be chalked up to looking autumn in its face and seeing it on a larger scale, which involves recognizing the fact that this especially beautiful time of year is brought on by the demise of the summer and the creeping turn of time towards darker days. As we move closer to winter, swirling our way to a halt, the colors get brighter. Warm breath is more visible in morning air, warm drinks taste better. The occasional days where summer casts its golden shadow become much easier to appreciate. The world begins to die all around us, and we can be found lounging in t-shirts and shorts, jumping into piles, trying to forget that we are students. It all seems so poignant, as though life itself comes into focus. And this is really what it is, because autumn is inspired and packs lessons for us in each fallen leaf if we are willing to look. Their detachment, the death all around us is shown in a new way, it is beautiful. And we who so easily focus on our feet have no choice but to notice, to look up in wonder as what usually filters the sky above us floats to the ground.


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