Sometimes a change in the season can spark old memories and the feelings associated with them.
Autumn is definitely here up in Edinburgh. Over half of the leaves on the lime trees on my street have changed colour to a yellowy-gold, and even though it has been sunny, it has also been cold, and the second storm of the season has arrived.
This autumn is reminding me of last autumn, and autumns before that. I’m thinking of autumn weekends travelling to see the leaves in the past decade, and before that, autumns in countries where the weather didn’t change much; and even before that, as a child when autumn meant conkers and kicking piles of leaves. But I notice I’m feeling a lot of sadness as well, which doesn’t really make sense. Until I realise that most of all, I’m being reminded of autumns with my much loved old dog Daisy, walking through the leaves with her, or going on forest walks with her in all the colours of autumn. These are happy memories, but I feel sad that those times are past, that she’s not with me any more – she died in January. Maybe this time of year will always remind me of her, colouring the season with grief.
The sights, smells and sounds of autumn can bring back feelings that were around in the past. We might find ourselves feeling sad, and work out that it’s because the last time the leaves turned, we were feeling really alone. If we had a painful conversation or received some bad news while crunching through autumn leaves, we might feel those same feelings next time we crunch through leaves. These feelings might not immediately make sense – it can sometimes take time to catch up. One way to help yourself understand what is happening, is to journal. Spend some time with your journal, reflecting on what is happening in the natural world around you, and any feelings you can identify.
So autumn might be bringing up feelings from the past, as your senses recognise the new season. You might also notice that the reminder of time passing is leading you to reflect on how our pasts and presents interact. We might compare past and present autumns, or wonder how we travelled from that past autumn to this present one. We might be prompted to worry about future autumns: where will we be next year when the leaves are turning? Some of these thoughts might be helpful, some of them not so much. When we find our thoughts to be a long way from the present, I wonder if we can find an ability to pause for a moment, mentally step away and check on what’s going on. Something that might help you learn how to pause is a meditation or mindfulness practice.
If you are experiencing unexpected feelings, especially if they don’t really make sense, I wonder if they are old ones. Maybe something about the change of season is reminding you of a past time like this, and the feelings of that time are reappearing. You might like to do some journaling about what’s going on, or talk to a friend. Of course, counselling can help as well – therapy sessions can be great places to explore our feelings and memories, and the intersection of past present and future that memory-jolters can sometimes take us to.