Is fall the best season of the year or the worst?
A writer who loves fall and a writer who hates it make their cases.
Sept. 30, 2020
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Fall is the north’s apple-cinnamon reward — that southerners secretly envy
We don't need to fake the perfection of our instagram photos of colored leaves, scarecrows and gourds.
By Meagan Francis
It takes guts to live in a place with the Midwest’s unpredictable seasons. Summer is nice for a while, but sweat-inducing summer temps can hang on well into September, and once we’ve cleared that unpleasantness, we live under the constant specter of what we know is coming in November — gray, gloom and a lot of cold rain — all before the onslaught of ice, snow and below-freezing temperatures that often last well into April.
But for at least one glorious month, autumn is our reward for having the internal fortitude and external vigor needed to make it through the rest of the year up north: a reprieve from heat, a breather before the snow starts flying and a chance to wear our favorite cute boots, sweaters and beanies without having to layer them under a parka and two pairs of gloves.
Sure, some might say we all just pretend to love the fall because it gives us an excuse to post pictures of ourselves on social media sipping pumpkin-spice lattes in fingerless gloves while sitting on an overturned milk crate surrounded by piles of gourds. And it’s true that I, for one, can’t stand the pumpkin spice infestation.
But that doesn’t mean all selfies are lies, or that the limitless pictorial possibilities merely amount to an Instagram filter that makes reality look better than it is. No, from parks and preserves emblazoned with red, yellow and orange leaves, to surreally spotted gourds and vine-laced pumpkin patches, to the most golden of golden hours, the photo ops abound because of the actual splendor that surrounds us. Slow your finger-pointing, fall-haters: Up here, we’ve loved the autumn since long before the invention of the front-facing camera.
And why wouldn’t we? Where I live, in southwest Michigan, this time of year is nothing short of magical. Those leaves I mentioned metamorphosize before our very eyes, meaning the tree-lined street you drive down on a Monday may look very different when you drive down it again Wednesday. They then drop in a colorful rain and make crunchy piles that, along with the ripened Concord grapes filling vineyards, give the air its distinctive crisp scent. The temperatures are darn near perfect: often sunny and warm enough to go sleeveless in the mid-afternoon, but chilly enough at night to justify cuddling in front of a fire.
Indoors we’re lighting up all the vanilla- and cinnamon-scented candles that have lain dormant since spring. People who like sports have plenty of options, even during Covid-19 times; the rest of us can indulge in baking pumpkin bread and snuggling under a fuzzy blanket to watch a movie.
While the coronavirus has cramped our cider-fueled frenzy somewhat this year — is trick-or-treating even happening? — we’re cramming as much responsible socially distant fall-related activity as we can into this short season. We’re picking apples and partaking in hot cider (often spiked). We’re visiting pumpkin patches, going on hay rides and pretending to enjoy corn mazes even though we know it’s really just a way to make our kids run off the sugar from the cider they just inhaled.
And fall features one of the best holidays of the entire annual cycle: Halloween! What other holiday offers the chance to imbibe chocolate by the pound with no social obligation besides putting a costume on your kids and sending them out into the world to collect it for you? And you can also release your own inner child, friends: Here’s your chance to play out whatever your oddball fantasy may be, whether it’s wearing that outrageous taffeta-and-sequined gown you inherited from your grandmother and totally love but could otherwise never wear in polite company, or dressing up as an inexplicably sexy version of some tradesperson -- say, a sexy lumberjack (hint, hint).
So here we are, fall-lovers: carving pumpkins, arranging gourds into artistic centerpieces, putting enormous mums in pots on our front stoops and madly crunching leaves under our boots-and-wool-socks-shod feet every chance we get … all while covered in chocolate, candle wax and doughnut crumbs.
In short, we’re losing our damn minds, and loving every nut-covered-caramel-apple-eating minute of it.
I’ve been told that, while there are always exceptions, our neighbors to the south generally do not share the affinity for autumn that those of us colder-weather dwellers hold. Look, I get it. In some areas of the country, fall may actually be hotter than the summer, or at the very least isn’t enough of a relief to inspire apple-cinnamon-fueled extravaganzas of enthusiasm. In many parts of the United States, leaves never change color and boots and sweaters rarely leave the closet.
Residents of these southerly climates may feel a bit smug about the fact that their temps seldom dip below our version of a warm summer day, but let me assure you, we four-seasoners know what we’re doing. We may complain a bit in December when our car doors freeze shut or we’re compelled to clear snow from the porch stairs twice a day, but secretly, we’re just as smug that we have the inner strength to withstand harsh temperatures. Besides, none of us have the attention spans for the same weather month in, month out. Year-round summer? Boring.
It’s like my mom always told me when I was a kid: “When a person tries to knock you down because you’re excited about something, it’s probably because they’re jealous.” So next time I’m sipping a hot rum-spiked cider while taking a selfie with a scarecrow wearing a beanie in a field blanketed with the dappled gold of a gently setting autumn sun, I’ll think about what they’re missing and my heart will be touched by a pang of sympathy.
And, when I’m convulsing with shivers, trying to start my car without my hands freezing to the wheel in mid-January — I hope they’ll do the same for me.
Fall is basically the Sunday night of seasons
All the so-called “joys” of fall are really just distractions from the fact that the fun part of the year is over, and the dark, unpleasant part is yet to come.
By Matt Meltzer
Ah, fall. The time of year when we all get a little nostalgic for wearing pants and someone decides what the world really lacked was pumpkin-spiced marinara sauce. A time when football returns and we get the pleasure of hearing perfect strangers talk at length about their fantasy teams. A time when the kids go back to school, then immediately come home again because you forgot it was Rosh Hashana.
Sure, fall has a great many fans. But none of the supposedly delightful hallmarks of the autumnal months can hide the fact that they're basically the Sunday night of seasons. After you get to spend all summer leaving work early and justifying hot dogs and ice cream as nutritious food groups, fall is our stark, yearly reminder that life is not, in fact, all light beer and flip-flops and fireworks. The fun is over, and it's back to school, back to work. Fall marks the beginning of the end as the days get shorter and we all start going to bed after "Jeopardy!"
I learned this growing up in the Pacific Northwest, where people embrace weird stuff like "changing seasons" and "professional soccer." But as soon as I was old enough to vote, I moved to Florida, where the seasons don't really change and "winter" doesn't extend much past the snow machine at Santa's Enchanted Forest.
Fall in Florida is kind of like summer light. In the fall, we replace sweating profusely at baseball games with sweating profusely at football games. Fall also means we can replace traffic jams caused by afternoon thunderstorms with traffic jams caused by snowbirds.
People say: "You live in Florida — don't you miss the seasons? The changing leaves?" And to them I suggest: Let's think for a minute about what those pretty colors really symbolize. You know why those leaves are changing color? Because they're dying. Then, to make matters worse, once they drop dead you celebrate by jumping in giant mounds of their decaying corpses. If this were anything other than a leaf, such behavior would be cause for serious alarm. Think about that the next time you take joy in making more work for some poor landscaper.
I kind of remember hot apple cider and other steamy drinks' being a nice part of fall. And they may be in other parts of the country. But would you like to know what drinking hot apple cider is like in fall in Florida? Take a swig from the next half-filled water bottle you leave in a hot car, and don't roll the windows down. Even in cooler climates, though, I don't understand why trading warm weather for what is effectively warmed-up fruit juice is supposed to be cause for celebration. Sure, it tastes nice, but you know what tastes better? Not getting dark at 5 p.m.
Because in addition to football and pumpkins, fall brings with it daylight saving time, which dates to 1918 and now feels like a useless relic. I'm not saying we should get rid of daylight savings, because who doesn't enjoy waking up and realizing you have an extra hour before you need to start scrolling through your phone? But I'm not exactly looking forward to it the way I look forward to, say, Flag Day.
Ultimately, to me, all the so-called "joys" of fall are really just distractions from the fact that the fun part of the year is over and the dark, unpleasant part is yet to come. Maybe that cynicism comes from living in a place where fall isn't so much about breezy leaf piles as much as it signals the homestretch of hurricane season. But even when I visit places with a real fall, I always walk away saying, "That was it?"
The fruit picking and pumpkin spicing are cute, and I suppose the colorful leaves are pretty if you don't think too hard about why they look the way they do. But for me, I'll take bright, sunny afternoons and temperatures in the low 80s any day. Or, as we call it in Florida, December.