Falling into Autumn

Every single year, right about this time, I break a promise to myself and eat an 11-ounce bag of candy corn.

To be fair, this is not my fault. I spend the rest of the year strengthening my mind against sweet and chewy temptations, but as my mind has not reached its full maturity yet, I can’t really be fully to blame for eating Halloween candy. And not just a little bit of it—I’m talking two or three variety packs a week, depending on whether or not my hall mates have discovered my newly relocated candy collection. Consuming massive amounts of candy, though, is just one sign of a far greater change than in my waist size.

Fall has come. I’m an East Coast girl, and I’ve had to learn to rely on more than the brilliantly changing leaves that only a mole could miss to predict that fall is here. But the cold I have been awaiting, in both fear and excitement, has come. I can feel it in the air with my bare legs in their skimpy summertime shorts. I can hear it in the chattering of my roommate’s teeth as she tries to sleep at night next to the window (this is why you always come early to the first day of college). And I can smell it in the sense that I can’t smell anything.

I think the truest sign of autumn begins in your nostrils. One sniff in early September and you know you’ve only got a couple days of summer left. Soon, the fall cold will hit and you will be reduced from your mature, worldly college self into a sniveling, sleepy, snotty child that just wants to be loved, but whom no one is particularly eager to touch. It’s like being a zombie, except that you’re alive and still fairly conscious of the fact that no one wants to hug you, let alone help you pick up your hundreds of wet Kleenexes strewn all over the floor. 

The worst part of the whole affair is that there is no escape. Eventually, you too will succumb to the disease, and most probably it will be just before your biology midterm. Soon you will find yourself, like I did, having competitions with your new zombie friends about who can blow their nose more like Dumbo, lamenting that the Ramen thief discovered your room right before you most desperately needed soup, watching The Little Mermaid in the kitchen to avoid people critiquing your sneezing technique and hoping to make as many people as sick as you as soon as you can. Zombies, after all, love company.

The frustrating thing about fall colds this year is that I thought I had escaped them. It is always, I thought dreamily to myself, summer in California. With their devotion to yoga and diets, no person in California has ever been defeated by something so human as a fall cold. 

But alas, it has found me even here. So much for bragging to my friends that I would soon be a Californian superhuman. I have been shamefully hiding my dripping nose on Skype for a week now, while they describe to me the wonders of a red and gold autumn. I can only content myself with the knowledge that their noses are just as stuffy as mine.

While New England falls admittedly have us beat, in one respect, Southern California’s falls are unique. Vermont and New Hampshire may have startlingly bright leaves, but here at the Claremont Colleges we have freakishly green lawns. Are they beautiful? Of course.

Being from the East Coast, I expect a lawn to be brilliantly green in the summer, but the second the leaves begin to fall, a lawn should slowly die a tragically romantic death underneath its blanket of leaves. But now, with brown leaves so artfully scattered across the quad, the green of the grass seems shocking, like Technicolor came through and individually shaded each blade of grass to look like it belongs in the jungle.

The lawn is beautiful and well-kept for sure, but I wouldn’t mind some leaf piles to jump into instead of the occasional leaf that’s escaped the rake. A leaf pile has a certain je ne sais quoithat just can’t be replicated by an individual leaf, crunchy as it may be.

Regardless of conniving colds and over-exuberant lawns, fall is still my favorite season. There is a certain majesty to it that none of the other seasons can replicate. The other day as I walked back to my dorm, a wind wrapped itself around me like it once did around Pocahontas, leaves fell and caught the red afternoon light and I became convinced, even this far away from the East, away from home, that fall in its quiet magic had found me here, too.

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