September 10, 2015 by Jean
I grew up in southern New England, where there are four distinct seasons (spring, summer, fall and winter), each with its own special pleasures and associations. The transition from summer to fall was always especially magical to me. I found the end of summer heat and the arrival of crisp, cool fall air physically invigorating. And, for a child who loved school, the association of this seasonal change with the beginning of a new school year made it a time for intellectual stimulation and the excitement of new beginnings.
Because I spent most of my life in school, my social life was also seasonal, ebbing and flowing to adjust to the workload of the academic year. When I was in graduate school, a long-distance friend once wrote me that, although no longer in school herself, she always knew it was fall when I dropped out of sight and summer when I resurfaced in her life.
A year ago, in my first year of retirement, I barely noticed the transition to fall or the beginning of school because I was so immersed in the chaos and stress of house construction. I remember meeting my friend Anne for a lunchtime event at a local college one day and being startled to realize that students were back on campus. August had turned into September without my noticing. This year has been very different. For one thing, I’ve been very aware of the start of school. And after my busy August social calendar, Labor Day has brought a welcome week at home with no social engagements. Once again, the rhythms of my life seem to be synced to the rhythms of the school year.
In part, this is because I’m going back to school myself this fall; my Senior College course begins in less than two weeks. This week, I’ve been getting back into the pattern I abandoned during the summer, of mornings devoted to scholarly reading and writing and afternoons for projects like cleaning house or working on course preparation. Although I enjoyed the social whirl of summer, I’m also enjoying the sense of productivity that this structure imparts to my day. As I settle into my retirement, I’m beginning to understand that my life will still have the seasonal rhythms I have always loved, albeit in different forms.
The four seasons are often used as a metaphor for the stages of life. In that scenario, the transition from working to retirement is probably analogous to the seasonal change from summer to fall. Given my lifelong associations with that seasonal shift, it’s probably not surprising that I see this as a stage of life characterized by excitement and new beginnings. In both the annual sense and the life stage sense, I’m happy to see the arrival of fall.