The Unsettled Season


Eric Van Fossen PA-C, CH

I always feel unsettled this time of year. I do not fully understand why and it happens every year.

In late August to early September I always sense some kind of a shift. It is subtle and if I choose to ignore it, I can. For some reason it seems stronger this year.

It probably starts soon after the summer solstice when the days begin to shorten. When I used to play golf, it was always more obvious to me out there on the golf course. I always imagined it was because I knew it was the end of the season for me and there seemed to be less self-induced pressure to play well. My competitive mind would move to the next year. Next year I could practice more and be better but for this year, I had gotten as good as I was going to get. I enjoyed golf more in the fall season. Sure the days were cooler but I think it was because I put less pressure on myself and could enjoy the beautiful day and whatever company I had.

 I also always notice the difference in the sun and the shadows. The sun seems lower on the horizon these days and it makes the shadows grow longer. I begin to have a sense of detachment as if the world has shifted and things will never be the same. That’s not to say they won’t be just as good or even better next summer; but they will be different.

Beyond the sun’s position and the longer shadows are the gathering clouds. I start to realize that the type of cloud cover we have in autumn has a different nature than the clouds of the summer months. Autumn clouds seem to have more of a confluence with gentle rolling hills of varying dirty white to grays. On some level I actually like these clouds. Just like I enjoy a good thunderstorm in the summer, with all of its power; these fall clouds seem to have a certain moodiness to them. They are indicative of winter’s more powerful emotions and it mirrors what I am feeling inside.

Perhaps then, it is the sense of the coming winter. There is a sense of needing to prepare for something unknown. Every fall season I go through a ritual of “batten down the hatches.” The garden hose is put away and the mowers winterized. The garage is given one last good cleaning and de-cluttering. The car maintenance is checked and interiors cleaned. I start having the sense of an upcoming hibernation. My desire to go to the gym lessens while my desire to live in sweatpants and eat Cheezits increases.

Maybe it is a connection to our ancestors or the ancients; some archetype of the collective unconscious. When outside this time of year, I have a flittering curiosity of what those ancient peoples sensed and worried about with the coming winter. Surely, they felt trepidation. Did they have enough food and firewood and shelter for what was to come?

Or maybe this unsettling is an unconscious acknowledgement of the cycle of our lives. If winter represents the deep sleep of our inevitable death, do we even realize when we are in the autumn of our lives? Are we unsettled by it? Or is that unsettled feeling just a misinterpreted sense of curiosity? Is it really a seeking out of what comes next; when the clouds will again become fluffy, the sun is more overhead and the shadows which surround us are shorter and less surreal?  Curiosity displaces fear. I choose to be curious and seek out what is on the other side of this year’s winter season. Maybe I will take up golf again. Maybe I just don’t like winter.