Fall’s my favorite time of year. Why that is I don’t really know. There’s just something about its mere approach that arrests my attention in calling me to recall how its arrival is always accompanied by a mixture of fondness and appreciation. It’s that place on the calendar where nostalgia awaits, where present and past become one. Where one’s yearly return reliably rekindles a feeling of timelessness and completion, of taking stock of what has been and what might be.

Maybe it’s because autumn is when the annual renewal of my formative schooling traditionally took place, and education’s all about what has gone before and what could be possible. Its rites of passage, filled with a mixture of reward and regret, remain remembrances reflexively triggered by all the sights and sounds distinctive to this time of year.

Fall’s spell begins well before its actual presence, brought about by those always unprepared for preseason previews glimpsed here and there during what’s really the waning days of summer. That period prior to the official equinox but already a feared part of its dominion. All it takes is that first change of color, of just one leaf, and denial’s house of cards slowly begins caving in to acknowledging the inevitable transformation of green giving way to swan song reds, yellows and brown.

Soon, winter’s slate cleaning will prepare for a new year, the eventual rebirth that’s springtime and the seemingly interminable yet all too brief intemperate excesses of summer.

Sinatra sang about fall’s symbolic place within the seasonal-like arch of one’s life. “It Was a Very Good Year” speaks to the fleeting nature of existence. Life, passing all too quickly, is all the richer by way of reflection: “But now the days grow short. I’m in the autumn of the year.” Fullness is a matter of quality not quantity. Appreciation’s the key.

Even as a young man I got the point, though its presentation belonged to an older generation’s musical tastes. That was 1966, when I was 15, and Sinatra’s wistful rendition was a huge Grammy grabbing hit when radio was still largely multi-generational in format and crooners shared airtime with a new and radically disharmonious musical voice. “The Times They Are A Changing” was totally the new reality.

The lyricism of “When I was seventeen, it was a very good year” hardly reflected my own life. In 1968 the Vietnam war raged on and that fall found me still a school year away from dealing with a dreaded draft and America still in conflict both at home and overseas. Music became a personal life raft filled with the shared introspection expressed by a growing band of singer-songwriters. Judy Collins was the most listenable repository of much of that artistry and her album released that November titled “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” showcased Sandy Denny’s song by that name. Its timeless imagery echoed much of the longing and transition of the day.

Whenever I hear it I’m transported back to that particular fall when I first experienced it’s instructive evocation of change as a companion to steadfastness: “Across the evening sky all the birds are leaving. But how can they know it’s time for them to go?” “I will still be here, I have no thought of leaving.” “So come the storms of winter and then the birds in spring again.” Fall’s reflective vantage point is all about finally stopping to take a deep breath in remembering the smell of roses hurried past and now gone by.

Sadly, rather than nostalgically, for many others the coming of fall instead evokes the end of a relaxed passage of time. Suddenly it’s again business as usual, the full weight of work reshouldered. Preoccupation with an always anticipated worst scenario for winter eclipses all ready pleasures of harvest time. Harvesting being not the same as buying. Eating an apple one has actually picked tastes vastly different from those purchased from the very same orchard.

Post-summer holidays somehow become more formally observed and more consumed by consumerism. Straight away, Halloween’s nearing specter brings ruin to many a paycheck in trying to secure enough candy to discourage being treated to tricks or in financing an evening out to legitimize a darkened domicile. More and more, the Ghost of Christmas Present often can’t even wait till Thanksgiving’s past to begin haunting us with its insidiously proactive commercialism.

I choose not to buy into any of that. I mostly opt out of what’s become a celebrating of holidays as a necessary extension of commerce rather than expressing a timeless appreciation of their being part of a much different nature-derived determination of life’s priceless value.

Year after year the passage of time slips away more and more quickly in direct proportion to our all-consuming compulsive rush to fill it rather than savoring it.

Who knows where time goes? Who really knows anything?

I just know that fall never fails to enrich all that’s gone before by offering the gift of cherishing what has been, what is and what might be.

Gary Anderson lives in Bath.

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