Midwestern Autumnal Realness

Autumn is my favorite season. Much of the reason for this is my undying love of Halloween, but I also embrace the crisp weather and watching the leaves change color. This time of year makes me crave walks in the woods, campfires, and red wine. At home, I light candles on the window sills and curl up under wool blankets and watch movies all day. I am ready to hunker down and enjoy the harvest season. Pretty much since early October and on, I’ve been crafting costumes, listening to Bon Iver, burning forest-scented candles, and rewatching that one Harry Potter movie that’s two hours of our heroes camping while being tortured by existential dread. I’ve been compiling slow cooker recipes and even signed up for a weaving class so I could learn how to use a loom for maximum hygge skills. Autumn is basically prep time for hibernation season a.k.a. winter and I am 1000% here for it.

I do well in the cold. Maybe it’s my quarter-Swedish blood, or my Midwestern roots, but I like to think I approach winter with the stoic attitude of a Viking warrior. Like Lyra Belacqua or Jon Snow, I’m drawn to the North. I prefer camping in the crisp, quiet serenity of fall over the sweaty, sunburnt heat of summer. As the temperature drops, I simply add more layers–wool socks, wool leggings, stocking cap. Wool is magical, and I like anything that allows me to keep staying outside, watching the moon disappear and reappear from behind wispy November clouds. I love the smells of autumn–pine needles, fresh snowfall, campfire, whisky–all enjoyed while wallowing in cozy knit sweaters like I’m damn Felicity. Currently, I’m reading a book set in Kamchatka and reveling in the descriptions of desolate, icy tundra. Earlier today,  I shoveled snow from our sidewalk and wore my favorite winter boots that make me look like a 70’s-era Star Wars extra.

I think what it all boils down to is my love of the changing seasons. I can’t imagine living in a place where the weather doesn’t drastically change every several months. Seasons create rituals, and I fully lean into them. I make playlists for every time of year (currently queueing up “Cozy Winter Cabin” on Spotify to accompany Chicago’s current snowfall). For the next several months, I’ll embrace my favorite knit caps, pumpkin bourbon-scented candles, fluffy slippers, and Pendleton blanket. I’ll enjoy the sound of ice crunching beneath my boots and watching my dog frolic in powdery snow. I’ll go to hot yoga class for that Swedish sauna moment. I’ll spend decadent Saturdays watching an entire season of a television show while drinking a lot of pinot noir.

But most of all, cold weather gives me the gift of time to work on projects. It’s usually when I do the most writing, and when I most enjoy losing myself in an engrossing novel. I’ve said before that winter pushes hibernation upon me and forces me to give up the non-stop social and travel schedule I keep during the spring and summer. I’ve got my cozy home office prepped and ready to go, with plenty of candles waiting for me on the window sill.

 

Summertime

I blinked and June  and July were gone. How is August almost over too?? I swear that summer just started. In a midwestern city where summer flies by so fast, we feel the need to be outside every single moment so as not to miss a precious drop of sunshine.

Remember when you were a kid and summer was the greatest time ever? Long days at the swimming pool, cruising town on bikes with friends, sprawling out in the backyard to look up at the moon while cicadas chirped a soundtrack to your most secret sleepover conversations–summer meant pure freedom. No school. No responsibilities. Even when I eventually had summer jobs as a teen, they were easy, carefree times. I’d scoop ice cream for a 4-hour shift before my friends came to pick me up from work so we could drive around, playing Alanis Morisette’s “Jagged Little Pill” on repeat and riding past boys’ houses.

As an adult with a full-time job and a mortgage, it’s hard to capture that delicious taste of summer freedom again. How do you fit in long, lazy weeks of bicycle-riding, dock jumping, keg beer drinking, and s’mores burning amidst the work week, the paying of bills, the doing of laundry, the running of errands that never go away? I used to have a co-worker who, every time I’d run into her and ask how it’s going, would reply “Same shit, different day.” That phrase perfectly describes the grind that is adulthood.

How do you make summer magical again? It’s all about catching the little moments when you can, as often as you can. You head out after work to the local street fest near your house to listen to a band and eat meat on a stick. You drive up to Wisconsin to spend 36 hours at a cabin to ride on a pontoon boat while drinking New Glarus before jumping out into the deep dark water in the middle of the lake, floating on a pool noodle and letting the sunshine beam down on your face. You go to a  giant music festival and sweat through the summer heat until the sun goes down, the night air soothing your sunburnt skin, and you share a spontaneous moment with tens of thousands of people when the headliner plays their biggest, most classic song, and you all sing along and feel the communal thrill of happiness over being present for this moment of time. You go canoeing with a few dozen friends, lazily floating down the river while drinking light summer beers and laughing at what everyone says, because everyone is hysterical when you have known each other for so many years and have a rich history of shared, hilarious stories. You let yourself float along the edge of the bank of the river, feeling the current tugging at your feet while a sun shower breaks out overhead, dappling the water all around you while warm raindrops bounce back up onto your face. You stand on the back porch of the house you bought and listen to the cicadas, the soundtrack to every summer of your Midwestern life, and remember the times you heard their chirps while riding around in your best friends’ Geo Metro listening to “Jagged Little Pill” so many years ago.