Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Fall Reminisces, Part 1

Fall is my favorite season. I feel slightly trite writing that, because favorite is so often connected with nothing more than appetite. “I love Sunkist—it’s my favorite.” There’s sometimes precious little behind our “favorites.” There is much, however, behind my affection for fall, and some is worth unspooling here.

Fall brings to mind cross country meets in high school. For those who don’t know, cross country meets are one of the more engrossing athletic events. You wouldn’t think so, would you? I bet most reading this doubt this assertion despite my protestation. I must only press you to consider again this matter. It’s just running, right? Point A to point B, legs doing what they should, break the tape and go home. WRONG. Cross country pictures man in his athletic essence. All is stripped away. No pads, no time outs, no substitutions, no commercial breaks, no stopping. Raw, painful effort represents the heart of cross country. 3.1 miles as fast as possible over hills and treacherous terrain. Fans screaming, coaches imploring runners to move up for the sake of the team. The will stands naked. Nothing else can help. It is simply a matter of mental strength. It’s brutal, it’s messy, it’s charged, it’s awesome. It hurts like crazy. I detested the feeling I got before races. There’s nothing like knowing you’re going to go out and run your body into the ground. You’re going to run until you can’t stand. Let me tell you, that puts butterflies in the stomach. Even as I type this, I can feel those old sensations, coupled with the desire to do well, the strategy set out for me by my father and I, the rivalries intense and boiling as we stepped to the starting line. It’s glorious, and it’s unlike any other event. Most of all, cross country belongs to fall, and so I churn with all of the above when fall comes.

Fall is a season of great change, or rather as the season before great change comes. To think of it another way, the great change is dependent on what happens in fall. Think of college applications. They go out in fall. What a process this is! It’s incredible to think of. One thumbs through the review books and rankings and recommendations and letters. One studies hard for the first time in one’s life for tests that will determine which level one gets to play at. One goes to the campuses, takes endless tours, eats college food, attempts to evaluate whole institutions, which as a wide-eyed seventeen year-old is quite a venture. One then sweats through the admission process. The mail is checked. Nails are bitten. Hopes are crushed. Hopes are fulfilled. Tears and anger hit the pillow; exultation nearly hits the roof. Then it’s time to decide between one’s schools. More visits, much evaluation, much excitement. Then the day of decision, and announcement, and the buying of paraphernalia. All this began in the fall. Great change begins in the fall.


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