Experiencing the unique frequency of autumn

“Trumpets sound and I hear thunder boom, every time that you walk in the room.” – Jackie DeShannon

There’s a sense or a presence – a frequency or vibration – that most of us can feel when we walk into a room – good, bad or otherwise.

We can tell whether the vibes are cool or not.

The same can be said for when someone enters a room.

Ever get the feeling that the punch just soured or that the party finally got started when a particular person walked in?

As a student of human behavior, I find this activity interesting.

Sometimes, a group standing outside a door might send an emissary in to assess the vibe and report back before all enter or decide to wait a little longer or go elsewhere.

In a related test, we often stick a hand or an arm out a door or window to find out what it’s like outside before we go outdoors to do something.

Oddly, with the social component removed, there is no human radar or meter involved looking to measure the vibe of the great outdoors.

Instead, the focus is almost solely on temperature, humidity and precipitation – what it’s like out there. We do this to see how we should dress.

A similar check is often made before diving into a lake or a river. We might stick a toe in to see how cold the water is.

Anyone checking the weather outdoors this time of year is likely to pick up some readings of coldness and wetness.

In the autumntime, the darkness and dampness seem to take on special lives of their own, like uninvited guests who simply showed up one evening on our doorstep and have been here ever since.

The dark nighttime skies lend an enhanced sense of their depth aided by the diminishing hours of daylight this time of year.

In a similar way, the darkness and dampness seem to coexist, traveling the roads and countryside like two old confidence men promoting their wares.

Eventually, they find their way to every town.

The more perceptive among us will also sense a feeling of melancholy or withering dripping off the bare tree limbs and soaking into everything.

Add to all these things the smells and sights of fallen and decaying leaves, pumpkin-spiced recipes and apples red and ripe on the trees and you’re getting close to the real essence of what autumn is like to experience.

I sometimes try to imagine having to explain what the fall season is to someone who has never encountered it.

There are numerous factual and practical, even scientific, descriptions about what is happening, and the how and why of it.

But for me, autumn boils down to a feeling.

It’s a time for the sounds of solo violin and piano, jack-o-lanterns, wispy ghosts flying around, skeletons and witches. There are ghouls and goblins, children carrying big bags full of eventual tooth decay, shrieks and howls and rattling chains.

On a side note, rattling chains have always puzzled me as to why they are supposed to be a scary thing. I suppose they are intended to signal memories of Frankenstein’s monster or other malformed creatures chained and bolted down for our protection.

If the rattling of chains is heard, perhaps we are to infer that one of these creatures is stirring and may break loose at any moment. If that’s the inference, I think it is far- fetched.

It seems like there would be a lot scarier things to hear – like coffins creaking, clowns laughing maniacally, infants muttering incantations or centaurs galloping through the streets neighing loudly and clapping their large white teeth together.

The fear of rattling chains also appears to only have a supposed effect on us during the autumn. I’ve never heard anyone who’s slipped off a wintry road say to a tow-truck driver, “I’m glad you’re here to pull me out of this ditch, but please don’t rattle that chain, whatever you do.”

There is a loneliness and sadness that is here too, lamenting the passing of another season of warm and shining summery days and nights.

And yet, this season of autumn remains my favorite.

That is until you get to Thanksgiving. Then everything is a wild blur through the holidays. I get the sensation that I am waking up on a beach somewhere in the first week of January, sand-sprinkled with torn clothing, wondering what happened.

I think autumn is the best time for walking outside and for campfires and for seeing everything across the landscape one last time before the wintertime comes to call, covering it all in an ice-cold, hoary blanket.

Autumn skies might be clear during the day but clouded over at night.

I walked outside a couple nights ago and saw a big, thick mass of billowy clouds covering most of the sky, but where the moon appeared, the sky was split by swirled line and everything to the north was clear, with stars twinkling.

It reminded me of the Chinese Yin and Yang symbol which is intended to denote “opposite but interconnected, mutually perpetuating forces.”

Even the first snowfalls of winter, when they come in autumn and remain relatively light – thereby respecting seasonal boundaries – are beautiful to take in through all the senses.

They add to the list of potential phenomena to observe during the fall, like the northern lights and the shifting places of the bears, dog, swan and other constellations.

If I consider all these things put together, I think the autumntime also provides a sense of spiritual awakening and awareness that I don’t feel to the same degree during other times of the year.

It seems to me as though autumn is a time for me to be aware, have my sensors and mind clear and alert to discern messages coming across the cosmos from who knows where, intended for whoever is listening, watching.

My open spirit also seems to possess a true and direct connection to the Earth itself at this time of year that I can feel down past bedrock to the magma.

I took a few mental snapshots over the past week that have stuck with me. I am not sure why that is, but they seem to hold some importance, or I likely would have forgotten them by now.

The first came when I was driving at 65 mph along a windswept highway where leaves had been flung high into the air and tumbled across the road ahead. Within this scene, in a gigantic yard to my left, a big, black dog was running so fast and jumping into the air.

A fence kept the dog from getting out onto the highway. The dog’s seeming feelings of freedom, exuberance and play reminded me of when I was just a young pup and just as happy to be outside in the air, even if confined to our little backyard.

On a different trip, I saw a dead deer at the side of the road. Someone had stopped and used a saw of some type to cut the head of this animal clean off. My guess is it bore a large rack of antlers. What the hell?

I recently attended the dedication and grand opening of the DNR’s new public shooting range in Marquette County. The range was dedicated to two Michigan conservation officers – Emil Skoglund and Arvid Erickson – who were murdered by a deer poacher in 1926.

As surviving family members, DNR officials, law enforcement officers and others began the ceremony, I pointed up in the sky to a coworker an adult bald eagle gliding with wings outstretched flat against the gray October skies.

The presence of the bird seemed to align with the occasion, if you are willing to attach human values to wild animals. It was cool.

I don’t know the significance of any of these sights beyond their singular and simple occurrences. I don’t think they are in any way linked other than that I have recalled each of these things from my memory several times over the past few days.

Perhaps it’s just more of the mysterious magic of autumn that I don’t claim to understand, but I can certainly feel.

This fall feeling, occurring as the curtain between darkness and light is lifted into place for the next several months, is certainly something I would have to be dead to not be aware of.

I’ve read that El Nino may allow the fall season to extend into an Indian summer as we move forward past scarecrows, corn stalks and pumpkins.

Now is the time to enjoy the harvest of summertime’s labors, migrating flocks of sandhill cranes, spawning salmon and trout, warm drinks of apple cider and cinnamon, hot, hearty soups and doing everything I can to inhale the season.

It’s a great vibe, a cool sensation.

“The zombies were having fun. The party had just begun. The guests included wolf man, Dracula and his son.”

Outdoors North is a weekly column produced by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on a wide range of topics important to those who enjoy and appreciate Michigan’s world-class natural resources of the Upper Peninsula.


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