A new fall

Lauren May

Fall is not simply a season in Philadelphia. It is a way of being. The first signs of the crisp air and  walla - the collective community is suddenly  equipped in full fall attire--wool sweaters, light scarves, and a mandatory PSL-- and promptly proceed to prepare for a rigorous autumn schedule. From patch pumpkins outings, to apple picking rendezvous, endless fall decorating (everywhere), it is the fall spirit that comes to life in rich autumn hues across Philadelphia. 

Despite the beauty and comparatively balmy weather, wearing a tank top and shorts just does not bring the same fall spirit as home did. Moreover, fall here is new. New unpredictable weather, new fall uniforms, new ways of being. New friends, new adventures, new trials and tribulations. And new is hard. 

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My first change of seasons my freshman year was marred by a persistent sense of loss and loneliness. To my horror, not only could I not count on the weather to be constant, the weather was a tempress; an amalgamation of brisk mornings,  sweltering noons, pleasant midafternoons, and frosty nights. That paired with the daily uncertainty of my every decision in this supposedly life-changing chapter of my life placed me at a total loss when trying to find my “normal fall”— my favorite season— in a setting that was anything but ordinary. 

My second fall was one of solitude.  I discovered how to delight in all things small. Found--A plethora of mushroom species that come to life after an autumn rainfall. What would pair better with a solitary walk through the gardens: a matcha or a chai and moreover what music will I play? I discovered that home has a taste in the apple french toast of Elmos and that Duke Fall is much sweeter with an iced oat milk matcha to compliment the scores of 70 degree days on the BC. Still something was amidst. 

I came into this fall with a bated breath. A semi-normal semester lay ahead of me. Yet, campus was almost as new to me as it was to the class of 2025-- new faces, strange Covid-ifed spaces.

 In October something changed, I was talking to a classmate from Miami. And she mentioned this was her first real fall. And in no way she was not enjoying this  unfamiliar, new requirement for a winter coat. Another classmate chimed in from Brazil, it was her second fall and she missed the balmy breezes of homes at this time. Huh?

I was overcome with a giddy joy that I could finally relay the delights of a real fall  to them. I outlined a strict schedule of apple orchards and subsequent apple adventures in the kitchen, of jumping headfirst into leaf piles, and how beautiful the kiss of a warm apple cider is after a bitter autumn night. For each person there are small delights in this season of transition that no one else can truly know. 

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My evolution through time through, now, three seasons of fall at Duke has afforded me the luxury of discovering a new taste for fall.  In the warm afternoons spent basking in the sun before the briskness of fall nights comes I have luxiaurated in conversations with friends. Fall is ephemeral and hazy now not necessarily a way of being but instead a spirit of change. Change from warm to cold comes with unpredictability not just in weather but in new relationships, journeys, and tribulations that come with fall. Now it is fall nights that taste as sweet as candied apples and I am warmed not by bonfires but by WU meals crammed into nooks on the second floor.

 

I end this fall, less reminiscent than my first. Some things never change: the PSL is still the go-to and the trees slowly but surely fade in the hues I love so much. Yet, now I have a new way of viewing fall. It is not simply a season, a word, a state of time but rather a liminal space boundless in opportunities for growth and plentiful in nostalgia of all things slightly tinged by wind freeze. Fall is now a moment of reflection not just on the simple pleasures of summer but of the passing of the years.