Before the Last Leaf Falls


For over half my life now, I’ve struggled with Seasonal Affective Disorder in early autumn. I don’t know if it was a series of painful life situations I had to deal with one particular summer when I was younger, or just my growing awareness of the metaphorical meaning of the seasons changing (and all the attendant cues around me), but even when I’ve had good things going on for me at the time, September has been a very painful month for me to get through. Now that October also holds the anniversary of Mom’s passing (the second anniversary is two weeks from today), it’s hard to tell which month is worse for me in terms of just surviving everything that serves to bring me down each day.

As wonderful of an opportunity as I have here in Wisconsin with my new job, every moment since I’ve moved here has been bittersweet, simply because Mom passed away before she could see me get this position. The part of Wisconsin I’m in reminds me a lot of the northern half of Michigan’s lower peninsula, north of the 45th parallel, which I still believe is the most beautiful land I’ve ever been privileged enough to see. (I miss the parks I used to frequent in Toledo, and Colorado’s mountains have their majesty, but Michigan will always be tops in my book.) I get to watch deer grazing outside my bedroom window, I’m further removed from the bustle of the city than I’ve been at any other point in my life, and the quiet here is incredibly conducive to my writing. It’s a wonderful place, but it still hurts that I’ll never have the opportunity to bring Mom here to see for herself.

I knew that the trees here in Wisconsin would start to lose their leaves sooner than I’m used to from all those years of living in Toledo, but it’s felt like the change has come too suddenly here. Some of the trees on campus were almost completely bare even before the equinox, we’ve already had a couple of freezes,  every day I look out of my window, there seem to be a lot more bare branches than the day before. There are a lot of evergreens out this way, but I can tell all the green that helped calmed me down in my anxious first few days here will soon be gone, and it won’t be coming back for several long months, even colder than what I’m used to in late autumn and winter.

As if that wasn’t enough, we had snow in the forecast for this past Sunday night, although I never saw a single flake fall. Back in Toledo, any kind of snow before November is unusual, and accumulations (like we were supposed to get here on Sunday) are almost unheard of. I knew that I’d be getting a lot more snow here in Wisconsin than what I’m used to from elsewhere, but if I’d had to walk through snow to get to campus today ,then I might have had to scream just to let the tension out. (I am not a fan of the white stuff.)

Making the adjustment to Wisconsin weather would have been difficult enough on its own, but as I approach the second anniversary of Mom’s passing, and wounds that will never fully heal begin to flare up again, I can’t help wanting everything to slow down here, to give me time to adjust to the changing seasons. The cold and potential snow would be challenging enough by themselves, but as I think more and more about Mom as the 29th draws near, I just want one or two weeks of weather that reminds me of all the autumns I spent in Ohio, not what feels like a very early winter to me.

If my seasonal depression has helped me in any way, it’s at least given me experience in the fact that all these negative feelings I’m experiencing will eventually pass. The anniversary of Mom’s passing will soon be in my rear view mirror again, October will become November, and even as I curse the cold and the snow, I will know that better things are on the way, maybe not right away, but soon. Those thoughts may not help much when it comes to rigmarole of every day that I have to endure until then, but each day I get through is one more day until I can start to move on from the pain of these two months. That’s all I can really ask for.

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