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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.
More than a decade ago as I was living on the East Coast for the first time, a friend told me her favorite autumn day is the “fall wall,” the name she’d given to that first day where you wake up to a distinctive autumn crisp in the air. Maybe the morning shadows suddenly hit the sidewalk in a change of seasons way. Maybe you spy some leaves turning yellow on the trees. Or maybe the slight cool to the air is just noticeable enough that you realize, yup fall is here.
That is the fall wall.
As a parent of kids now old enough to be involved in school sports, sorting through the schedules and supply lists of complicated programs and as someone who lives directly nextdoor to a high school where the sounds of happy school activities fill the air as the summer wanes, I’ve realized that the fall wall can also be different thing. Instead of the weather, the wall is a deep feeling of schedule overwhelm as the easy habits and pace of summer slip into the requirements and careful, tetris-like organization of the school year. It’s like hitting a wall. As you hit the wall it’s tempting to put the things that have brought you peace and joy for the last couple months on the back burner — you know, things like heading outside.
That is also the fall wall.
Here in Alaska the fall wall of crisp weather hits with the fall wall of back to school, and maybe even before it. If I’m being honest I felt the wall about 10 days ago, in the very early part of the month. Over the last week I’ve watched with what I’m going to call growing concern as a hint of yellow has crept over the leaves on the trees that border my yard.
I’m not really ready for summer and the pleasant, easy weather to be over. I’m not ready for the daylight to shrink, or the darkness to come. Honestly, I’m a little sad about it. And that’s OK.
I dubbed this “the summer we had fun anyway” when it was clear that hot, sunny weather was never going to be our norm this summer. I didn’t want to be standing where I am today, facing the fall wall, and look back to see wasted summer days, or time I spent hanging out waiting for the weather to be good. After all, if there’s one thing I’ve learned through my thousands of days keeping my outdoor habit, it’s that the weather is never going to do what I want. I can’t wait for conditions to change. I have to change me instead.
And I did that. I took the paddle board out in the rain. We camped even though the weather was cold. We hiked and ran no matter what was going on outside. I used my puffy jacket way more over the summer than I thought I would.
Dealing with changing seasons and working through the fall wall is, for me, about remembering the things I like about the shorter, cooler days. It’s knowing that just because I’m facing the fall wall doesnt mean that BAM it’s cold now. It just means remembering to pack an extra jacket and that this is the time of year where clouds moving in can take you from blazing hot in the still intense sun to, yup, need to wear a vest over the sweatshirt.
It’s continuing to be intentional about heading outside even when the schedule is busy, or things change to disrupt my summer outdoor habits. It’s stepping back to ask myself how I can fit adventures in when they don’t happen seamlessly on their own.
It’s looking forward to events. Late August and the changing seasons in Alaska means back to school for the kids and a few extra hours for me to head out for some fun on a mountain without worrying about shuttling my people to far off activities. It means the state fair is starting which, yup, includes wearing sweatshirts and packing a hat but food and fun and friends and some really giant vegetables on display.
It’s planning for cold weather fun, and remembering that when the darkness does come I’m unlikely to want to make major plans, so current me can make them for future me, and future me will grateful past me did that.
I hope as you handle your own fall wall — whether it to be a weather one or a schedule one or both — you remember to pause to enjoy whatever it around you, to plan, to be intentional and to breathe. Share your outdoor photos with me on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram where you can see all of my photos of my outdoor time, too. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.