Fall is not messing around this year. Have I talked about the weather lately? Because it's been a little odd. The spring was cold; the summer was late and never got all that hot. And then, within days of the autumnal equinox, we'd been catapulted into a rainy, cold, grey fall. Trees have been changing their colors for well over a month, presaging the actual season by weeks as the weather got steadily cooler.
On my block, although the other trees have finally started to yellow and drop their leaves, there is one singular tree that has been brilliantly orange and red since at least mid-September. I've picked up its fallen leaves as I walked by, maple leaves colored that amazing neon red with the veins still outlined in vivid green like a child's idea of someone getting electrocuted, the articulated skeleton bright beneath the flesh. Fall has been my favorite season ever since I moved here from Arizona and realized that it actually existed; even though it means winter is coming, there's something about the way the air feels that makes me profoundly happy. I wonder what it means that my favorite season is the one where things are falling asleep, or dying.
If spring is when I make my resolutions, fall is when I feel the most reflective. After a summer of exposed skin and fast bike rides, I'm beginning to break out my favorite and most comfortable clothing, scarves and corduroy pants and well-worn jackets. I'm walking places again, hands in my pockets while I take my time and memorize the street names and try not to look like too much of a peeping tom while I sneak glances into other people's lives. I'm an incorrigible eavesdropper, but I'm trying to get better at hiding it. I'm letting the chill air remind me of quilts and hot chocolate and cuddling instead of bitter cold and gritty ice, but I know that it's all tied together anyway. In order to have this time, this season of comfort and small but significant pleasures, I'll have to live through what comes after.
I swore, last year, that I would not stay here through another winter. In my mind, in the first actual "life plan" I'd made since graduation, I'd be living in Denver right now, adjusting to a new city and griping about the shitty public transportation because some things are the same everywhere. Instead, I'm here in my studio, looking at the grey sky and watching my cats tussle on the carpet. I don't regret it. It's (perhaps) unlikely I'll be here forever, but for right now I think this is where I'm supposed to be. My time in Chicago is not done yet, and in many ways I feel like I'm just beginning, five years after I first set foot here, confused and heartsick and terrified of the big city and grad school and pretty much everything. A year ago I felt like my time was winding down towards a logical conclusion, but it turns out I was just gearing up for so many changes I would never have guessed what was in store. I'm happy here. This is, for now, home.
I once had a postsecret published, and it seems increasingly relevant. I was sort of embarrassed at the time (and, frankly, I still am a little bit), because it was cheesy: a postcard, found at a thrift store, of a giant walk-through model of a heart that they have (or used to have) at the Museum of Science and Industry. I wrote it shortly after my graduation from Northwestern, deep in the middle of what was easily the worst time I've had to live through, on a relatively good day when I was trying to pull myself up by the metaphorical bootstraps. The words I taped to the front, full of the tentative hope that somehow the act of creating this card for a stranger would release me from some of my pain and sorrow, were these: "I'm so much stronger than I ever would have guessed." (Which is fine, except it was also followed by the word "Yay!" Oh cheese, we go way back.) At the time, my strength involved mere survival; three and a half years later, I feel actually strong. Strong enough, I suppose, for at least one more winter.