Of Autumn Nostalgia, September, and The Blank Spaces Between Chapters
I remember the first time I saw trees in fiery autumn finery. It was late September; I was a newly arrived undergraduate at the university that I was attending in West Midlands, United Kingdom. As I battled all-consuming homesickness, cultural disorientation, and other newbie university student challenges, I nevertheless did occasionally emerge from my fog of bewilderment to briefly appreciate the brilliant theatre that these trees were putting up on display. They were in decay, true, but they appeared no less magnificent than in their glorious summer plumage. But I didn't take any pictures of them. All the photographs that I took of those initial months on my analogue camera depicted my university, my friends and the exciting memories I was making and accumulating. I experienced three more autumns during the time I lived and studied in United Kingdom but apart from a handful of pictures taken in my Oxford college's garden where bright yellow and orange autumn trees provide an arresting backdrop, it never occurred me to photograph the autumnscape for posterity.
How times have changed! Or, perhaps, more significantly, the way and how I look at nature. I made up for my earlier lack of autumn appreciation when I lived in Pittsburgh for a year and half, savoring how autumn unfurled over the months. I learned to love its nuances: the toast-crisp air, the sharp, invigorating, buttery sunshine, and a certain headiness that belongs to only autumn. I remembered exclaiming in surprised delight when the massive tree just outside my apartment window seemingly turned scarlet overnight. Yes, the summer was over, we were approaching winter - and yet, there was a promise in the air that was autumn's alone. That I could not photograph. What still vividly remains in my memories is the pleasure of walking out on a cool autumn morning, bundled up just so, literally drinking in the autumn air, the leaves crunching below your feet, so thickly, densely carpeting the path ahead that you could scarcely see the gray concrete or the viridian grass below. If no one was looking, I would take a childish pleasure in running through the leaves, seeing them swirl in the air, like birds agitated into flight.
The other day, while glimpsing these orange
gulmohurs dotting the soil, I couldn't help but remember similarly hued orange leaves, as they must once more densely fall on the ground in various
parts of the world while the season transits from summer to autumn. There is no autumn here, of course. The monsoons have concluded in Delhi, at least...but still, something feels different. It gets darker a tad earlier each day and the cool morning breeze makes me smile in anticipation for the mellower, delicious days of between late October-early December
Perhaps, the season reflects my current state of mind (or is it vice versa?) I must admit that I too am in transit, immersed in a limbo. I feel that I currently inhabit the
blank spaces in between chapters of a novel. The hectic summer flew past
and I wonder what beckons in the newly forming season ahead. So I
hibernate in the den of my words, the short stories that I am trying to write, characters who are slowly
beginning to form and take shape on my pages. I don't know them and they
don't know me - yet. And so we are both in - there's that word again -
limbo. But I persevere, writing and writing, persuading them to reveal themselves. And
perhaps, by doing so, I will migrate to my next chapter, writing myself
into what is going to happen next.