“Don’t be afraid of pain. It’s just a reminder you’re still alive.”
October has always been my favorite month. Not just for the Halloween celebrations, but almost specifically for the cold too. Living as close to the tropics as New Orleans means when it gets cold it doesn’t really get too cold too often, but we still have our occasional dips into freezing temperatures. In October however, the cold comes suddenly and subtly. With every bit of rain leading the cold fronts coming down from the northwest, relieving us of the Summer’s oppressive heat, the skies are covered in gray, migrating birds fly past as if evacuating the colder Winters of the north, and though it rains, the air becomes dryer and thinner, no longer having that muggy thickness that comes with the humidity.
The usual signs of Fall are always present too, the almost ever-present breeze, near constant overcast, and the falling of leaves. I always thought there was something oddly special about a tree becoming more and more beautifully colored as it drains water and life from its extremities in preparation for the biting cold. And these decorative red, brown, and yellow signs of the darker seasons of life sprinkle the half-dead grass like ornate toppings on a holiday dessert. These months of the coming cold before Winter’s full seizure of the changes is truly bitter sweet. Some people here can’t stand anything lower than 70 degrees, but the chilling air of October comforts me. Personally, I prefer the cold over the heat; it’s easier to deal with, allows you to wrap yourself in thicker, warmer clothes, and the tactile sensations of dry, cold air on your skin will always be a refreshing alternative to the syrupy, humid air that clings to you like a veil of moisture. It’s suffocating when the air feels as though it’s really full of something already, if that makes sense.
My favorite thing about October and the onset of the Cold is that, just like when thunderstorms shock the area, all of the drained life and color from the sky and the plants, the frigidity of the air, and the invisibility of the animals in hiding bring out the life and wonder in other areas of life that we don’t usually notice. This morning there were quite a few dozen crows flying around my neighborhood, filling the cold air above with their black feathers against the gray sky. The leaves of the oak trees don’t fall, but turn darker and darker until they’re almost as dark as the bark of the tree. One hears less and less of the birds chirping, and you hardly ever see the bugs and reptiles dotting the area. This time of year is very atmospheric. General activity dies down in favor of vigilance, and a new kind of life takes over as the heat and fire of Summer cools, leaving the coals and ashes of Autumn and Winter in its wake. Now is truly the best time to celebrate the culmination of the life of Spring and Summer as it is harvested, and we begin, in Autumn and Winter, to celebrate death and the impermanence of things.
What makes life so worth living is that one day we lose it all. Stay close to your loved ones, and bundle up and be ready for the cold. Life is better with warmer hands to hold.