6 Fun Things About Fall (That Actually Symbolize Death)
Meanwhile, in Canada, the first reports of White Walkers are coming in.
Hooray, it's autumn again! The best season of the four, when you get to wear that jacket that makes you look cool. I'm particularly excited, because fall was made specifically for us brooding New England Yankees. This is the time of year when we are allowed to smile, which is what our people call a grimace.
YOLO, Goodman Smith, YOLO!
For us, stoic pain is the only pleasure we are permitted to know. But for all of you who live in places without seasons, here's why the fall is so great: dark days, strange skies and the smoky scent of mortality mixed with fear. Yes, fall is a dying time, and that's a beautiful thing. Pour yourself a scalding cup of cider and I'll explain.
So the season of the witch is upon you, and there's nothing for it but to wither and die under a curse. Perhaps you looked a toad in the eye, or spat on a crossroads after midnight. Whatever the reason, your cow has hemorrhoids, your wife's giving sour milk and your dog prophesies a damp harvest in a voice not of this Earth. Also, leaders in every corner of society are protecting their employees from child molestation charges, but let's stick to the imagined terrors.
Even if you do dodge a curse, fall is the fearing time, and with good reason: In autumn, teenagers are four times likelier to be pursued by a knife-wielding maniac with terrible skin. Yes, movie slashers, but I was talking about high school bullies. It seems like fear is everywhere. Why? The answer -- the FINAL answer -- is darkness. Unending, unyielding darkness.
See, October is when the sun gets its paycheck, meaning it blows all its money on booze and only shows up one day in ten -- and on that day, it rolls out of work by 4. So basically, you're living in a chilly void, when the trees turn into corpses with a thousand fingers. This is the teaser trailer for Earth without the Source of All Life. And it's a good reminder to get home and hug your loved ones, because we're all going to become dust, just like the leaves clinging to our clothes.
How It Relates to Death
What's scarier? Dying, or being dead? You have all winter to let the snow pile gently atop your
grave roof, but for three months, you fret over when that terminal point will come. Meanwhile, you watch all vitality drain from the Earth even faster than it did from FX's Sons of Anarchy.
God knows I loved you, SAMCRO, but you chose instead to love yourself.
That's autumn, baby: losing all the resources you spent the first half of the game accruing. The encroaching darkness and desolation are a hemisphere-sized euphemism for our fear of death and decay. It's nature's prettiest way of teaching you the maddening lesson that death is inescapable. But hey, don't worry: Till then, we have caramel apples.
Football technically commences in summer, but Americans know that it is truly an autumnal battle. The game begins in the wilting heat of August and continues into the bleakest austerity of winter. It is the bridge between unbearable power and insufferable scarcity. The only season that doesn't know football is spring, because that's a time for hope and life, as symbolized by the Final Four delivering us from March Madness.
Fun fact: Pro football helmets are equipped with sensors to collect data on a player's internal decapitation, so that in the future, we can shoot it from the best angle.
How It Relates to Death
Weep, ye mortals, for fall is the murthering season. Football is the story of dynasties in decline. Historically, all the best wars really hit their stride after the harvest, when the farmer could put his hoe down and throw down. And let's not kid ourselves; football is warnography. Sure, the NFL pretends to be scandalized by defensive bounties for injuries, but that's like a Chicago politician investigating corruption. The system doesn't work without the scandal.
Fall used to be the time when we slaughtered the fatted hog, but now we ritualistically sacrifice the sleek running back. When the rite is complete, a logy America can lick the blood from its chops and tuck into bed for a month of hibernation. We wake only to rub out prayer-seed for the fantasy wombs of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. This, too, is the circle of life, as in the ashes grow the shoots of tomorrow.
You probably didn't know you were part of an ancient fertility cult, but here we all are.
It's ludicrous that TV still runs on a crappy seasonal schedule based on Nielsen ratings, when it should have adapted to the fluidity of modern media five years ago. But since we're still a few TV executive heart attacks away from fixing that mentality, let's enjoy the dwindling tradition of a few people with no taste picking out a new wave of TV shows for the rest of us. Something called a Honey Boo Boo was recently added to America's freak show menagerie, but I'm not watching that; I'm holding out for its competitor -- a reality show about four career criminals locked in a room with a safe full of meth, and each of them knows just one number of the combination.
I'm particularly interested in how The Office will be trying too hard this season.
Early indicators suggest that it will be Angela's slowly building murder-suicide storyline.
But I'm even more excited by UNTITLED CRIME DRAMA. It's about a hunky special agent, his beautiful but tough partner and their oddball lab tech who is also a hacker. All three of them are master criminal profilers. Coming this fall to ABC/CBS/FOX/NBC!
How It Relates to Death
It's cold and dark, so you can flop down on the couch without feeling guilty, much as we all accept death when it comes at last to take us to that undiscovered country. And hey, in a season of darkness and dying, it's nice to enjoy familiar comforts, like watching The Walking Dead's Rick Grimes lose everything he loves.
Finally, a soap opera with some teeth.
Nature gets into some mighty peculiar shenanigans come the early sunset days.
Leaves -- every autumn, the trees turn a glorious inferno of colors before that beauty fades and falls in what must surely be a metaphor for something -- perhaps the current state of the music industry? No, no, something much less horrifying: only the end of all existence. Known as "farmer's gold," these leaves are gathered in baskets to be baked into pies. The pies are inedible, but -- ah, what colors!
Apples -- crisp and juicy, apples come in a variety of flavors:
--Naughty (buy a bushel and get a free bottle of warming personal gel!)
--F-sharp, for the synesthetes
--Elpparzo, the bizarro apple from Dimension X!
And this autumn, nature's new line of X-Treme Apple Power flavors, including Caramel Blast, Chocolate Core, Caffeine Bomb and Double Cider Punch!
They've already given three college students heart attacks, so it's very exciting.
There is also a Christian apple bred by Bob Jones University agriculture students as a way to enjoy the fruit's succulent juices without all that worldly favor. Although mild in taste, its rich, white flesh is very low in original sin.
Post-Eden Apples: Ask your grocer for them by name.
Each new breed of apple must be "grafted" -- that is, a limb must be sawed off the tree and replaced with one from a serial killer. In time, this arm will take on a mind of its own, killing all who come near, but also producing the sweetest fruit.
Yep, fresh apples are a treat. Unfortunately you'll never get to try one, because the lousy things fall to the Earth and mush up before you get close enough to pick them. It's one of nature's most passive-aggressive defense mechanisms.
But the farmer, in his wisdom, has found a use for it; the rotting apples are raked into a pile so that children may jump into them and cavort and laugh and frolic, and O, what fun! These piles are then burned before the children can escape. It is nature's way. Because evolution or something.
You haven't celebrated autumn until you've tried apple-roasted suckling long pig.
These days, of course, technology has increased the harvest yield, so very few children are sacrificed to the Wood Gods.
Pumpkins -- We do some pretty weird things to pumpkins, if you think about it. No other fruit gets so many faces carved into it. For a healthy treat, roast the seeds, then spend hours spitting out their fibrous pulp. Why did we think those would be good to snack on?
Canning -- It turns out you can make jellies out of anything: cucumber, garlic, a father's disappointment in a son who cans. Well guess what, Dad: That pickle on your sandwich? A canner did that. Accept me!
You plunder a corpse, you're bound to get a ghost.
How It Relates to Death
The inversion of the growing, thriving order thus far. This is the season of the root vegetable. Most foods fall to the Earth, go soft and rot. Squashes and roots start there, firm up, and then endure practically forever. No wonder we're always stabbing pumpkins in the face! What are roots, but food that rises from the soil like the undead? Our fall harvest is a grim fandango of falling leaves and rising zombie foodstuffs. Mummified root vegetables slumber, waiting for us to release them from their tomb. And then things get all Frankensteiny with our unnatural preservation of the softer plant life in pickling jars. OK, I'm reaching, but it's cool; I already got to make a child cannibalism joke.
Winter is coming, which means three things: good soup and bad colds.
And this meme.
How It Relates to Death
Winter also means you'll soon be locked inside with nothing to do. Autumn games are very important, because historically speaking, they're the last memories you'll have of the children lost to measles by February. (These days, of course, your children are much likelier to outlive you, or at least live long enough for cyborg technology to turn them into ghastly mockeries of humanity.)
Either way, games and crafts remain a fun way for families to bond, if you think your children are people worth knowing. Here are a few fall projects you can try together, all but one of which are autumnally morbid.
--A wicker man. This is the perfect way to raise honey production at the end of the season, and also to rid yourself of Nicolas Cage, who, frankly, has been an awful guest. Make sure you get the appropriate permits for multistory construction, burning and disposal of Mr. Cage, who is considered a hazardous waste.
--Raising the dead. An impressive skill on college applications, but be mindful that your pentagram isn't marred, thus turning your unholy minions against you.
--Duck hunting. This will teach your children gun safety, respect for nature and cool-tempered patience when they miss the shot and that goddamn dog laughs about it. But more likely, they will try to shoot the dog.
--A scarecrow. For this project, you will need:
**A burlap sack -- the kind you use for drowning kittens
**An old coat and hat -- perhaps you could steal these from a charitable donations bin?
**Two poles lashed together -- sounds kinky
**Extra rope -- definitely kinky
**A steak -- wait, what?
**A Post-it note -- or non-Post-it brand sticky note
**Chloroform -- or substitute with your creepy knockout drug of choice
Marinate the steak in the chloroform. Cook it to medium rare, and leave it someplace where Hollywood's Cillian Murphy will see it. Nobody can resist a medium-rare steak. Murphy is a longtime vegetarian, so affix this Post-it to the plate: "Steak? More like FAKE lololololol!!!!!!!!!"
When he comes to, Murphy should find himself hanging from the crosspoles in full scarecrow regalia. Don't worry about him breaking his bonds: vegetarian, remember?
--Fall is the perfect subject for an amateurish poem! Here's a template you can use. Simply change every third adjective to "treacly," "unvivid" or "moribund."
As often do I dunkel drink, and frowns ensue,
A staggering great sadness feels me -- OOH!
Where stone upon the great helm fell
In seasons do the chilblains dwell
An' great despair whimp'ring I
That (silence) shifting: gloomy sky; (sigh)
'Ere nine and ten a month we pass;
All sorrow-Earth becomes like foie-gras
[that's goose liver!]
A woman's loin is no great respite
To we elites made sighful of this danky cesspit.
Cry mercy, shucking sheds the shrew!
And hey the world, sing nonny, do.
If then (I) giving heart (you) is false
Must (we) needs be The Great One, Frost.
Two roads are now forever splits.
--Turn a bike into a papier-mache float. Tell your children you're having a special parade in their honor, and then march them down the street. Life will teach them soon enough -- and harshly -- that they're not special. For now -- ssshh, don't spoil this moment.
And, what the hey, put 'em in a duck costume. You're only young once.
Did you know? Some countries celebrate autumn in the month of March! For centuries, people thought this was because the Southern Hemisphere had lost a bet, but the answer was both simpler and much more complex. It happens because of something called Science! Exactly how Science does this is a magical process man will never understand until we slay the Science-King and put his Crown of Electrons upon our own brow. Here -- take this sword and seek him out that ye may save our land from the Browning Tide of Foliage. I'll stay safely at home and write lyrical epics about your heroism.
Look, you don't need me to tell you that fall is a time when death rules supreme, mostly because I've already spent seven pages telling you just that. And if the nothingness beyond is the greatest horror, then embracing it makes a man strong enough that nothing can hurt him, except touching his eyes after cutting jalapenos, because OW OW OW I JUST DID THAT.
Death is the end, but fall is a reminder that it's natural, kind of beautiful and entirely cyclical. Its greatest gift of all is teaching us to accept death without becoming one of those wanky goth kids. Even its name -- fall -- is a gentle, inevitable means of coming to terms with this existence. The only sure things in this world are death and gravity, and autumn is when we're surrounded by both.
But this is not a reminder to attack life -- no no no. Why pick fights with someone bigger than you? Autumn is a reminder to finish your work, sock away provisions and then take it easy.
How It Relates to Death
The Buddha tells a parable about a man chased over a precipice by a tiger, where he dangles by a vine. Below him: another tiger, waiting for him to fall. He notices two mice nibbling on the vine. About to die, he plucks a strawberry and pops it into his mouth. How sweet it tasted! Because he hadn't eaten breakfast. But also -- it was the last sensation he would ever enjoy.
Like other commodities, life gains value with scarcity. Autumn is that glorious pause when death stalks the perimeter, and life is all the sweeter for it. So go ahead: pack on a few pounds, enjoy a day doing nothing on the couch. The end result is the same. Remember that making every moment count includes blissfully wasting a few.
Last year, Brendan dropped knowledge with 5 Facts About Thanksgiving Your History Teacher Left Out, and hey, have yourself a map of Batman's mental state.