On Welcoming Autumn
A Sweater is not Just a Sweater
It was another one of those waking-a-couple-of-hours-too-early reveries, lying awake in the dark while memories played out like a movie, a stream of consciousness and free-association going from scene to scene. This time the anger memory rolled into the sad memory, which in turn rolled into a wistful memory, and then some happier recollections, even romantic ones, or at least romantic in the sense they were of the hopeful, beautiful, life-will-be-better moments that come with being young. God, I was such a romantic, always looking for the right person, the right house, the right art form, the right words, the right style, the right life, the potential of the next thing being the one, the fulfiller, the yellow brick road on which I could journey to a great and glorious life and career.
Oftentimes those “next” things came about in the fall. In fact, I can’t remember offhand any that didn’t. Autumn itself is imbued with the romance of hope, at least in much of this part of the globe, in the quality of life, the more pleasant weather, the intensified colors, the quickening of wildlife. The excitement of a new school year conditioned us as children with its hopes of having more fun and more success in every venture than the year before, from football to academics. Even long after school years there was still the simultaneously reassuring and stimulating coziness of sweaters and socks as the temperatures got cooler, the taste of fresh apples and cider, the reward of harvest, the smell of bonfires and burning leaves, all the viscerally tribal elements that said to me, to us, you are on the threshold of glory, of love, of life.
During much of the rest of the year it is easy to forget all of this, to feel duller, less motivated, less brilliant and beautiful. I’m reminded of the William Butler Yeats poem When You are Old, encouraging the reader (sitting by the fire, of course) to one day remember those times of beauty and brilliance. It then whines that the reader could have had his less-shallow love if she’d only paid attention to him at the time, but it does point out that love can still see those moments “of glad grace,” and lets you know they are still there, those bits of brilliance and beauty, even when they have faded with time and age–or never really materialized at all. But I digress.
Through most of the summer I spent the evenings (sitting by the a/c, of course) knitting a tunic-length sweater I intended to wear in September, working with soft lightweight yarn and slender needles. As with most such projects, I avoided patterns and knitted primarily to be knitting, sustaining the meditative rhythm for hours at a time. It doesn’t matter that I am reinventing the wheel, that others have long since refined the process of what I am figuring out on my own. The point is the process itself. It is nice to immerse in something that has nothing to do with work, that can be taken up, set down, and taken up again, requiring little space and minimal expense. There’s even something to show for it after a while, which is gratifying in a different way, particularly as it sprang forth from my own creativity, from conception to presentation.
For once, I finished a sweater on schedule, and did indeed wear it Friday night, when we walked to dinner out and there was a slight chill in the air. There was also the scent of burning wood from someone’s firepit, and music coming from the stage in the park, where there were many young people with the light of autumn in their eyes. My own illusions of beauty and brilliance passed years and years ago, but my new sweater was soft and comfortable, not too thin, not too heavy, long enough in all the right places, and possessing a nicely finished V-neck to show off a bit of the white top worn underneath. It is a pleasing light green between olive and celadon, almost a neutral, and lovely with the black skinny jeans.
Knitting with finer gauge yarn and smaller needles is much more time-consuming than with regular worsted yarn and needles, and the patience required for them was just not in me in my younger days. Mistakes and irregularities are also much more noticeable. Whatever beauty and brilliance I once possessed has been replaced (with eternal gratitude to whatever god or life force designed it) by patience, tenacity, endurance, and as much love of the process as of the results. Those are my crowning glory now, replacing the youthful thick head of hair (or thick head with lots of hair).
Nonetheless, I love the onset of autumn, the time of new beginnings and when everything is keener, whether as a potentially beautiful and brilliant performer, or as a most grateful and appreciative audience.