Friday, November 30, 2012

Herbst II: "Leaves Turn Inside You"

"Only in October / now it's nearly over / maybe in November / if you can remember / when it rains it feels like shame / remind yourself after work / to find a new city to blame / lock yourself in the house / sometimes / you'll laugh / so hard / you'll cry / only in October / now it's nearly over / maybe in November / if you can remember / broken teeth for months it seems / like you like hell / weekend comes and now you feel / like your after life / sometimes / you'll laugh / so hard / you'll cry" —Unwound, "October All Over"

I didn't smell fall arrive in 2012. Unlike every other autumn that I can remember, that sudden undercurrent of crisp rot in the air,—I missed it somehow this year, that smell that madeleines one's mind directly into the cycle of all falls, always fall, the season of live-in decay. Cycles are forever; we are not, even with respect to ourselves.

(For me, fall has been the only season that I experience as a season, as recurrence. Winter is a time to get through, but it never feels like a déjà vu. Spring is filled with clichéd potential but never provides the temporal gap for reflection. Summer is so preoccupied with right-here-right-now that the past and present dissolve. And fall falls on us like a ravenous but patient vulture. We will always be dying our one death, which lasts forever.)

Maybe I was clinging too tightly to the rhythms of this summer's summer, when we forgive ourselves for our need for pleasure and revel in doing nothing. Lists of things that "must be done" bleach in the sun; by Labor Day, we cannot recall what was so pressing about all those things.

Indeed, it's been many, many years since the autumn that I am living in has not followed a very hot and muggy August. By contrast, fall was barely welcome this year: it brought no relief because, apart from a pair of truly warm days, the summer's summer, there was no heat in Berlin from which to be relieved.—Which is to say that fall wasn't even negatively determined this time around.

But if this is the first fall that arrived without my catching its scent, then perhaps I have finally been freed of the after-effect of so many years of school. Above all, autumn has always smelled like the first semester of a new school year, even long after I had stopped going. This is the year, then, when that ghostly feeling released its grasp, finally, belatedly, but does this also mean that I am ready to return?

Or, as Unwound sang in another song from 2001, "The future was invented back when you thought you were human, and now it's only getting better every day that we forget."


  1. That was short-lived, for this year, NYC reeks of autumn. And regret. And nostalgia. The soundtrack will be Isis' Celestial.

  2. To read the first post in this series, go to fall I: thematize me.

  3. "In due time, autumn too vanishes. One morning I awake, and from a glance at the sky I know winter is near. Gone are the high, sprightly clouds; in their place a heavy cloud bank glowers over the Northern Ridge, like a messenger bearing ill tidings. Autumn had been welcomed as a cheerful and comely visitor; its stay was too brief, its departure to abrupt.
    The passing of autumn leaves a temporary blank, an empty hole in the year that is not of a season at all."
    – Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

  4. It has happened three times now this fall that I have woken up with an urge to listen to a specific album, started playing it, and discovered (thanks to the magik of digital media player stats) that the last time I listened to it was a year ago, give or take only a day or two. Today it is Sonic Youth's Evol.

  5. This year Fall is returned — and once more its odor is intensely Fall. Also, Leaves Fall Again.