Last week we witnessed the passing of the autumnal equinox (its brother equinox, vernal, occurs every March). This is where the sun sits directly on the equator, at which point the lengths of day and night are approximately 12 hours apiece.
It marks the official shift in astronomical seasons from summer to fall.
Yes, the summer of our discontent, scalding, metallic-seat-belt-burn heat and egregious swamp ass has ended.
There's something about the multicolored ingress of fall that changes the way you feel, how you act. The crisp air and merciful halt to the humidity signifies hope. A time when we can start hiding our paunches under more layers, and if so inclined, continue to grow that paunch throughout the winter.
School is solidly back in session by now and football — or fantasy football, for the socially awkward — dominates the water-cooler chat. Hoodies and girls in Uggs become regular sights. The array of colorful foliage makes drives along wooded, remote areas of Richmond — anywhere across the river — seem like less of a chore.
This time of year makes me want to jump in leaves. To have the unmistakable smell of an outdoor fire on my clothes. To have crappy, pumpkin-flavored beer forced upon me.
It makes me want to put on a new winter coat. A North Face, probably, because I went to private school. But this is just the beginning.
Halloween and all that entails is within weeks. People are picking out costumes already. My radio co-host on 103.7 Play, Melissa Chase, chose her outfit four months in advance. She's a bit unhinged and probably will drink a few vodka Red Bulls and forget it's even Halloween, but her enthusiasm is infectious.
Another friend, Dane Acton, in lieu of decorating his house, is dressing up his newborn like a pumpkin (or putting the child in a pumpkin?) on the front porch. Apparently, it's a Franklin County thing, which other than the backwoods, Deliverance-style hog jammin' they have going on, actually is a wonderful place to check out some of Virginia's best foliage.
(Putting the child securely in a front-porch pumpkin also is a great way to save on babysitters, from what Dane says.)
Poetry — though generally acceptable for a man to read in public only if it's 1914 or if he's a rapper of some note — tends to become more significant with the changes afoot. I'm always reminded of Robert Frost and his poem, "October":
O hushed October morning mild, Thy leaves have ripened to the fall; Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild, Should waste them all.
Damn it, Frost, you dead, sexy poet laureate you. You make me want to buy a log cabin in Vermont and start a cute little stationery store, from which I also would sell homemade maple syrup. That's what I want when I read you, Frost. I'm thinking we'd get the word out about the maple syrup at local farmers markets and county fairs, you white-haired son-of-a-bitch. Now get over here and let me rub your decomposed head.
Where was I? Right, fall.
Let's hop in a hansom cab with a quilt and a thermos full of hot toddies. Let's take a haunted hayride with a bunch of high-school kids, drunk. Let's play James Taylor's "Country Road" on my iPhone as we're kicking leaves down a freakin' country road!
I guess our feet know where they want us to go, right?
You're damn right, James. Damn right. Come over here. I want to rub your head too.
Fall, let's do everything. Let's stop wasting time, snap out of the summer malaise and start living our lives with ardor, with passion.
Nathanial Hawthorne said, "I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house."
And that guy wrote "The Scarlett Letter," so he knows his shit.
To be fair, fall isn't all fun in leaf piles and girls in Uggs and drinking hot-toddy-filled thermoses and building one's maple syrup conglomerate one customer at a time. It also reminds us that another summer has passed, and that the leaves, the sustainability of life, are dying away and that we're getting older. The days will continue to shrink and the nights will grow longer. The pumpkins will rot. Another year will draw to a close. Another year of not living up to expectations, of disappointing friends and family, of disappointing yourself. Of watching the hands on the clock meander aimlessly into oblivion. The prospect of improvement, of hope, slowly fading.
But we can worry about that next year.
Now who the hell is up for some pumpkin spice lattes?! I'm buying!
Connect with Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lauterback also is co-host of "Mornings with Melissa and Jack" on 103.7 Play weekdays from 6-9. On Twitter @jackgoesforth.