Of the four seasons, I’ve always felt as though autumn was the one that was most open to personal interpretation. The others just seem to be what they are. When we think about spring, our thoughts immediately go to rebirth, new beginnings, and a fresh start. It’s almost universal. Similarly, summer calls to mind togetherness, relaxation, and the reconnections that happen when you vacation with family and friends. Suddenly you’re sleeping under the same roof with your parents, siblings, or grown children again. When it comes to winter, even those of us who love Christmas, and roaring fireplaces, and great boots are also willing to admit that there’s something a little claustrophobic and desolate about all that snow and ice. But let’s think about fall for a minute. Some of us see it as the season of the harvest, when all the work of spring and summer finally pay off and we are rewarded with abundance. The emotion of gratitude moves to the forefront. Yes, winter is on the horizon, but it’s not here yet, and we’re using this time to get ready. Others of us view fall as an ending of sorts. The carefree days of summer are over. There’s a chill in the air and we feel a bit melancholy and lonely when we think about the long, cold winter ahead.
Since the changing seasons of the year are often seen as a metaphor the passing of time, do you think it’s fair to say that the stage of life represented by autumn also evokes the most diverse feelings? Well let’s see. It seems to me that we’d agree across the board on how we feel about the “spring of our lives.” It represents when we were young children, babies even, and we needed protection and guidance until we could make our own way in the world. There’s a freshness to spring that matches our own innocence. When the time comes that we’re ready to take our first steps toward independence, suddenly it’s summer and we’re in our prime. The days are long, and what we lack in experience we make up for with enthusiasm. We feel relevant and important. The world needs us. If we keep going with this train of thought, autumn would have to represent the point when we attain a greater level of maturity. We have experience now, and can enjoy things from a new perspective gained from a lens colored with gratitude and wisdom. Yet isn’t it also true that we may begin to feel that we lack relevance and we’re not as needed as we once were? There can be a certain loneliness that tugs at us, and a sense of foreboding. Winter is coming whether you’re a Game of Thrones fan or not, and it brings with it a measure of seriousness and weight.
Does this way of looking at life seem dismal to you? It does to me, and I can guarantee you that Neil Young and the haiku poets we talked about earlier this week would scoff at such thoughts. For the Japanese poets, the seasons represented an ongoing cycle that we would experience many times in our lives. Fall would give way to winter, and it would signify a death of sorts, but only because a new part of ourselves was ready to emerge. The dying was symbolic rather than literal. For Neil Young, it was all about adapting to changes in the music world through his own cycle of death and rebirth, without losing his authenticity or his relevance. Few musicians are able to transform themselves even once, and yet he managed to do it multiple times, emerging stronger and brighter with each metamorphosis. The fact of the matter is that none of us have any idea how long our lives are going to be. When a person has died suddenly, especially at a young age, they were often unaware that winter was knocking right at their door. On the flip side, it is absolutely possible to be right smack in the middle of what’s supposed to be autumn, only to find ourselves realizing a dream that we had a long time ago when it was spring. It is equally possible to remain relevant and necessary, but only if we seek these things out and reject the idea of being limited to just one chance at each season. The wonderful benefit that comes with allowing ourselves the possibility of experiencing summer again is that we will do so with the gratitude, wisdom, and maturity that the previous autumn brought to us. And, most of all, we will remember that weight of winter, and know that we’re being given a chance to feel light again.
For today’s cocktail, I wanted to make something that was simple, but also representative of the passing of time. I decided on a variation of a classic Sidecar that kept cognac as its base because it’s a spirit that’s so easily associated with winter and seeking warmth and good company. I added Laird’s Applejack next to represent the flavor of autumn, and lemon juice and a honey syrup to remind us of the bright sunshine of summer. I finished the cocktail with a dash of lavender lemon balm bitters, two perennials that appear to die in winter but are reborn in the spring. Cheers everyone. Happy Friday!
Autumn and Everything After
Rim a Nick & Nora glass with cinnamon sugar. Add all the ingredients to a shaker tin with ice and shake vigorously until very cold. Double strain into the prepared glass. Enjoy!