Reflections on the transition to autumn.
Over the last week, the colors of Harvard have started to change hue. Gone are the bold greens of the Yard that, when juxtaposed with the bright red buildings, form the quintessential ‘Harvard’ image. They’ll be back—or so I’m told. For now, we find ourselves entering a phase that, in no time, will dovetail into an unrelenting winter.
The arrival of the fall seems more than a change of seasons to me; it represents a change in the general outlook of people around campus. For most freshmen, the onset of this season is a sign that they are well and truly on their way, and there is no turning back.
Of course, the fact that this coincides with the end of the add/drop period is a rather unfortunate coincidence. We, quite literally, have no chance to go back and retrace our paths for the upcoming semester.
On the other hand, I find that fall is closely associated with abundant reflection on oneself and one’s surroundings. Just this past week, I walked into the Harvard Art Museum with a friend and found it to be an idyllic place to complete my readings. Marveling at Picasso and Monet, we wondered why it had taken us over a month to discover this paradise when it was situated merely steps away from our dorm.
This realization wouldn’t have dawned on us in the humid summer or the frosty winter, when the general inclination is to stay indoors and avoid the extremities of temperature. Fall, on the other hand, forces people to step out and embrace nature’s beauty before it gets covered in sheaths of snow.
This is also the time of the year when we experience picturesque views of the most iconic buildings around campus. As I walk to class every morning, I can see the historical consortium of Memorial Church and Widener Library grow more and more visible, as the trees surrounding them shed leaves.
Not only do the structures start to glow, but their surroundings fill with the exuberance of the yellows, the oranges and the reds as well. It really is a magical time!
However, there is an anxiety-ridden side to this season as well—the fact that the winter looms over our heads. Being a freshman myself, I don’t quite know what to expect over the next few months. Given the stories that have been told and retold to me since day one, I’d really rather not find out.
And the telltale signs are hard to ignore: one can see the dressing sense of the students transform around campus. Some of us have even dug out the scarves and gloves from the back of our wardrobes, while others have fallen victim to the cold and are finding their pockets filled with napkins. All evidence points to the unnerving fact that this winter may be every bit as unforgiving as the last one.
And yet, while we should not and cannot ignore the looming threat of winter, we mustn’t allow it to take away from us the last bit of sunshine we will see till our calendars turn over. John Keats fittingly described this season in his ode To Autumn, to be the “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness/ Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun.” And this serves as a gentle reminder to us that this is the time of the year that most of us are at our optimal levels of productivity. No wonder this is the time our midterm exams are scheduled!
As we wait for the heating in our rooms to be turned on, and watch the coats and jackets get thicker, let us take a moment to appreciate the beauty of this season. Unlike spring that is sung about in poetry across many cultures, the fall doesn’t quite get its due credit. It does, after all, serve as a smooth transition from the first few weeks of the semester to struggling and testing times, when the work starts to pile up, as does the snow.
Pulkit Agarwal ’19 ([email protected]) is the guy you thought was wearing the ear muffs and gloves too soon.