Fall is every fall preceding it. I smell smoke and I am eight years old, walking down a country road to a friend's Halloween party. A dead leaf crinkles beneath my feet and I am clumsily holding hands with my father in our leaf-covered driveway, or holding hands with a lover on an important leaf-covered walk, or alone with the leaves, walking with my hands in empty pockets, shivering from the bitter chill of heartbreak and dreaming of an impossibly faraway spring when everything will be better. When I see a clump of raked-up leaves I am in a dying Soviet park, jumping in a fresh pile right before a homeless man asks me for five cents. I see a child making the walk to school and feel the butterflies of a new teacher and a new year. I see the fragmented memories of relationships and friendships from seasons long gone by. I recall dreams that blossomed, greened, then shriveled up and fell to the ground, crunched on and broken to pieces by passersby. Fall is the fading away and the reappearance of things that once were. Thoughts and ideas in this season drift away from me in the cool breeze or become frozen, numb, motionless overnight.
But with the complexity of fall comes hope. The crunched-up dreams will rest beneath layers of snow all winter long, nourishing the ground and making it green again when the right time comes. My thoughts and ideas will return to me in another fall, inside another memory. And next year I’ll have this fall to add to my collection of falls: one where my hands are always warm and my pockets are rarely empty.