It's just that time of year

I remember why I love hiking on Sundays. 

When we hike on Sundays I'm not at home on an autumn day, watching the sun set through fiery leaves, cruising Facebook to see what family and friends are up to, feeling melancholy about the passing of time and the change of seasons. 

This Sunday afternoon, with its precious hours free of obligations and must-do's, opens a floodgate of melancholy and longing. Spiced, milky warm chai in hand, I am restless. And in this season of harvest I feel an inexplicable tug to be trekking in the western mountain ranges, making camp in groves of quaking yellow aspens, listening to wolves howl at night. 

Damien plays a mix of music. Acoustic guitar mourning for the leaves turning yellow and spiraling down, outside my window. Insistent melodies that push grey clouds against bright blue sky.

I am anxious to rid myself of this dull ache in my chest. An ache for what, exactly? The past mostly. 

Childhood in the embrace of my large extended family. My mother's table. The combine at harvest, grain dust filling the air. First love.

Memories that haunt the present. The good past. The good present. 

I feel anxious. Not stressed anxious. Simply anxious to rid my heart of... what? I wouldn't rid my heart of the memories so I must accept their recollection with the dull ache that sometimes accompanies remembering a time now past. 

Maybe that's why we turn our heart's attention to thankfulness in fall. Yes, there's a bounty for which we give thanks, but it is more than a bounty grown from rich soil. It's a bounty of recollections that are put-by in the secret places of our hearts.

And sometimes I ache that my children do not have a childhood like mine. A childhood that shines more gold in my memory than is possible in the living. 

But my children will have their own secret places, where memories of our family life, their childhood, are preserved. Memories that will grow sweeter with each passing autumn. 

A friend recently shared her own autumn melancholy. And my heart beat in recognition. 

It's just that time of year. 

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  • Darkpurplemoon

    Darkpurplemoon on Sept. 18, 2013, 1 p.m.

    Dear Renee

    I thought I would send you a comment to hopefully cheer you up. 

    I have been reading your blog for many years  - on the surface there is no reason to 

    i don't have kids (nor plan to) 

    I'm not Christian 

    I don't plan to hike long distances 

    my husband hates walking (or any form of outdoor activitiy)

    I live in the UK, just outside of London

    there really isn't any link in our lives, and yet I have been reading your site for years. I will often just read your blog out of the list in my rss feeder, or save it till last as I know it will be fab. 

    Your words resonate with me, even though we don't have anything in common. 

    And so I thought I would share my thoughts today and thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your story. Even your melancholy, and know that when you post about such times I hold you in my thoughts and prayers. 



    • renee

      renee on Sept. 18, 2013, 1:24 p.m.

      Dear Darkpurplemoon,

      I am honored you read my blog and thankful for your cheering message. Fall melancholy does not strike me like a seasonal malaise, more like sharp points of nostalgia in an otherwise beautiful and blessed season. Thankfully it's not something I feel day-in and out or even often in the season (I'm praying the same can be said of my SAD this winter coming up) but just at certain points and the feeling is almost re-assuring to me as it happens every fall. It's one of my "i'm really alive feelings". The elation of gorgeous fall days paired with remembrance and reminiscing. 

      xo, Renee


  • Anna

    Anna on Sept. 18, 2013, 1:07 p.m.

    I also have a melancholy spell in autumn, but it's sweet as well as mournful.  The days are unbearably beautiful (and cooler), nights are open-window, and I embrace the 'another trip around the cycle' feeling.  Plus, it's time to be thinking about what to make for loved ones' holiday gifts, which I really enjoy. For a natural melancholic, it's a familar and favorite time of year.


  • mist

    mist on Sept. 18, 2013, 1:19 p.m.

    I have melancholy spells on weekend afternoons usually between 2-4 pm. Something about the light at that time of day. Hits harder when the light changes in fall and winter. If I'm active and working they aren't there, but lounging around and dreaming---oh man. 


    You aren't alone.


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 18, 2013, 1:27 p.m.

      You too! I didn't think I was wierd or anything to feel melancholy to have someone else nail it on the time even. Wow. Thank you for sharing this! That's even the time I feel I experience it most, and never on weekdays, which are chock full of activity, or even when hiking which is mentally and physically engaging. Only on quiet afternoons, just like you say. Wow, what insight. I thought it was a Sunday thing.

      Did you experience seasonal melancholy on the trail?


      • Misti

        Misti on Sept. 18, 2013, 10:40 p.m.

        I had a different kind of melancholy on the trail---homesickness. That got better at the halfway point though. But no, the afternoon melancholy didn't really occur all that often, maybe a little bit if we were in town at a hostel and resting in the afternoon. 




        • renee

          renee on Sept. 18, 2013, 10:57 p.m.

          Good to know. I wonder what kind of homesickness I'll feel. We'll be "homeless" (in between houses while hiking) & my family will be with me. I wonder if it's routines I'll miss, since I love my home routines, or if I'll just make trail routines to replace those...


  • Stefani

    Stefani on Sept. 18, 2013, 2:45 p.m.

    I've been reading this blog for years, too. I'm in Wyoming—yellow aspens, big mountains, blue skies—and in the fall I long so much for my childhood farm along the Kennebec River. It is a physical pull. Fall has ALWAYS been a melancholy time for me, even as a high-schooler. I remember beginning to understand its fleeting nature and feeling, somehow, deeply nostalgic and yes, more alive. I bet we are wired for this. Your pictures, in fact, make me long even more for Maine (although I realize that's not where you are...but east! Hardwoods!) and for my own rich and bygone childhood. Fall, too, has always been my absolute favorite season. Thanks for your words.


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 18, 2013, 2:50 p.m.

      Stefani, your words make me long for Maine now too. There is no place quite like New England in Autumn, though Quebec is a good substitute - with red maples and smoky hills. Ah... fall. 


  • Alaina

    Alaina on Sept. 18, 2013, 3:28 p.m.

    I feel this at times too.  I never really noticed it had something to do with the time of day or season.  But, come to think of it, I usually feel this way at the end of the day after the kids are asleep.  I don't have much time to think during the day- the toddler occupies my thinking time- but at night, when all is still, I can really get feeling that way.  Often for me, I have to tell myself to go to sleep or else I can get really emotional.  


    I also think sometimes about what my children will have in childhood memories vs. what I have...but it goes both ways...there are things I had that they won't and things that they have that I didn't have.  


  • Kika

    Kika on Sept. 18, 2013, 4:01 p.m.

    Somehow its like the sadness of leaving behind the more joyful, light season of spring/summer and knowing we are heading into that darker, more contemplative winter season again (figuratively and literally?!)... and feeling not quite ready for it. 

    I hadn't pinpointed that some of what I feel at this time is, indeed, nostalgia for the past but reading your post helps me see that this is part of it. It doesn't help that I lost my mama in the fall many years ago-I think there is a remnant of that pain that revisits each year. 

    Some of it must be spiritual: a letting go of what was and a deep yearning, mixed with trepidation, for what is yet to come. 


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 18, 2013, 4:13 p.m.

      Yes to everything you said. Saying goodbye to the light filled season of summer, approaching a darkening time of year, and never ready for that. 

      And of course the spiritual longing, always, for things that are yet to come. 


  • Christy

    Christy on Sept. 18, 2013, 4:48 p.m.

    This is a melancholy time of year although it is my favourite season.

    I too think of my childhood and how different it is to my son's.  Especially growing up in another country.  But even if he grew up where I did, times have changed.

    So thank you for your expressions.





  • Jessica

    Jessica on Sept. 18, 2013, 9:21 p.m.

    Renee, I feel this post in a deep part of me.  Your words and photos together create a song and I feel the beat.  That melancholy...I know it so well.  Sometimes the beauty of the past and the present make me want to weep for reasons I could never quite put my finger on until recently.  Now I can usually name my melancholy as a longing for heaven and home and beautiful things that always stay and satisfy. A line in a song by Rich Mullins (If I Stand?) says, "If I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home."  Eternity is in my heart.  

    Loved reading the comments and resonate with them as well as your responses.  Thank you for your words.  Thought these words were lovely and so true:  "A childhood that shines more gold in my memory than is possible in the living."  Really beautifully put.  


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 18, 2013, 10:24 p.m.

      Jessica, me too. Exactly. I named this longing for what it really is in the last few years also. After achieving and gaining everything I hoped would feel like home & "arriving"- a permanent physical address, a loving family of my own, a grounded community, a career of homemaking (how much more homey can you get?)  - I still felt longing and restlessness. Even with all the good things, most of them not material, I will never feel completely at peace here. Because I am not from here and will never feel completely at home here. Longing as you do for "heaven and home and beautiful things that always stay and satisfy". (beautifully said).

      Around the time of this recognition Switchfoot released their album Vice Verses and Where I Belong captured the longing exactly.

      I wrote about that album in this post.

      And when I really let this truth sink deep in my heart, when I live like eternity is in my heart, I have the courage to do so much more than striving to find my perfect home here on earth. (until fear creeps in and strangles that courage, if I let it). Which is where I am now in my adult life - open to so many more adventures and opportunities because what do I have to lose? Home is not a place you live, it's a place you carry in your heart. 

      Thank you for echoing this truth. I need to hear it. Often.




  • Ruth L

    Ruth L on Sept. 19, 2013, 3:38 a.m.

    hi Renee,

    This blog really resonates with me as we made a trip to the farm tonite and smelled the grain dust as we watched the combine gobble up the swaths.... felt the 'mild' itch as the load of grain filled the truck....loved the view of acres of fields, some already filled with baled straw, others waiting to be harvested..... and of course a trip to Uncle Wayne's garden at the edge of the field, digging almost foot long carrots and spotting many squash and pumpkins among the plants, some already quite orange..... very nostalgic, but very satisfying to revisit old memories..... a truly special time of year!!


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 19, 2013, 12:04 p.m.

      Thank you Auntie for sharing those details of your trip. Those are things I miss and wish my children could experience. 


  • Jen B

    Jen B on Sept. 19, 2013, 2:18 p.m.

    Beautiful words and photos! These feelings in the Fall, I get them too for as long as I can remember! Maybe even as a child.

    Today I am enjoying a beautiful sunny day in Maine - I will soak it in for you and Stephani who commented here about Maine. I truly love this place and feel so blessed to live here.


  • kyndale

    kyndale on Sept. 19, 2013, 3:16 p.m.

    I feel an ache in my heart this time of year.  I woke up to a cool nip in the air outside this morning.  A strong reminder that things are changing.  Though, this feeling of sadness in the fall shifts to excitement for the things to come.  I just have a hard time with change.  It definitely takes me a little bit to adjust.  Your pictures and words here are so beautiful Renee!  Thanks and have a beautiful day!  Sending love!


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