In Need of a Word

Photo by Mal B

Autumn is coming. Can you feel it? The temperature dropping is the most obvious sign, but there are others, if you’re looking as hard as I am. A steadily growing number of leaves waiting on my windshield every day. A seemingly unexplainable increase in lap cuddles with my suddenly fluffier cats. A near-silent flurry of activity outside my window – birds and squirrels and lizards shaking off the lethargy of summer and getting back to busy. As am I.

There’s an emotion that often visits me, and I don’t have a word for it.

Sometimes, I feel full near to bursting with it, but I don’t know what to call it. Part of it is a hyperawareness of my surroundings, and I’ll become doubly thankful for all I have and more in tune with nature without trying. Part of it is something akin to joy but less happy and more fierce. Part of it is a very poignant, bittersweet melancholy. A huge chunk of it is a type of longing that has no object. I don’t long for something; I just long.

At times like these, I feel as if I am the center of everything around me, but not in a selfish way. More in a physical way, almost. I feel like I’m deeply a part of things, and I’m acutely aware. There’s also an energy, an antsiness I can’t quite work out. Excitement and anticipation. Maybe I’m just way too into Halloween. Maybe the animal instinct in me knows it’s time to start readying for winter. Maybe it’s more than that.

I suppose that all of this makes me sound a little bit crazy, because how could all of these things possibly be a part of the same emotion? I don’t know. All I can tell you is that they are one and the same, and I don’t have a name for it. But I look for the name every autumn, in my own way.

I’ve described it before as a pressure expanding from within. A waiting on the brink of something unknown. A yearning, a tugging, a melting. But none of these quite capture it. Indeed, it’s this feeling that has moved me to create many of my works, from poetry to stories to entire novels. I’m beginning to wonder if that’s the reason I write about it: If I don’t have one word to encapsulate it, maybe many will do.

The truth is that I love this feeling. As an artist, it’s emotions so large I can’t ignore them that most often drive me to create. So this autumn, I hope to get lost in a swirl of beautiful but not quite perfect words, chasing the one that probably doesn’t exist. I may never find it, but I’ll find many others along the way. That’s not a bad way to spend a season. Or, come to think of it, a life.

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  • What a lovely post! Fall fills me with anticipation, too, for the joys of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, the glorious leaves, and the first snowfall. Now I don’t have any of that, but I love hearing about your enjoyment of the season. 🙂

    • Thanks Lexa! We don’t really have it yet either… just heading that way. =) And yes, all of the anticipation for holidays and events! It’s good stuff!

      • Thanks for stopping by and helping with the naming. I’m glad that as a TX girl you think the names are good for a cowboy. A bit surprised to hear you read lots of romances. I don’t know many horror writers who read those. Why kiss when you could stab…or chop…or skewer… Heh, heh, heh. 🙂

        • You’d be surprised! I think I’m just brave enough to admit it. (Ha!) I read a lot of genres, though. Horror, literary, mainstream, poetry, romance, fantasy, nonfiction… I went through a romance phase when I was a teen and read everything I could get my hands on — DOZENS of books. So yes, I’m quite familiar with the sexy cowboy. =)~

          • Oh, if we’re going back to teen years, I’m forced to admit I think I did more than my share of keeping Barbara Cartland in diamonds and champagne! I think I read everything that lady wrote! LOL (And you’re probably are too young to even know who she is…)

          • True, I don’t. My poison of choice was Elizabeth Lowell!

  • Julia Munroe Martin

    I totally understand what you mean — I was thinking the same thing yesterday when I looked out and saw the first leaves turning. The anticipation of changes. I always associated it with the beginning of the school year. But even now, when the school year doesn’t drive me in anyway, I feel that looming emotion and antsiness.

    • Interesting. I never thought about it as possibly connected to childhood and the school year beginning, but that makes sense. To me the emotion feels very primal, so I assumed it has something to do with survival/animal instinct, but I guess it could even be both!

  • Mishell Baker

    I’ve always credited it as a layering of memory upon memory upon
    memory… returning to school, upcoming holidays, watching the days grow
    shorter, and the many heartwarming and melancholy things that have
    tended to happen to me during that time of year. Every year, the layer
    is a little bit deeper, and drives me to more artistic, melancholy, and
    sentimental pursuits, which then adds another layer of the same emotions
    against the same backdrop of crisp air and smoky smells…
    But yeah, you’re right, it needs a word.

  • Regina Richards

    I know exactly what you’re describing because I feel it too. I think of it as Urgent Possibilities. It’s full of so many things, delicious anticipation, energetic eagerness, an odd relaxed serenity, the need for new clothes even if I already have plenty. You’re right. It needs a word. 🙂

    • Urgent Possibilities is pretty good! I do tend to get not only more productive but also more “crafty” this time of year. Fall is full of the type of weekends where I’ll say to my husband, “I feel like making something.”

  • Amanda

    What a beautiful post. I feel much the same way about fall. It is the best season by far, in my opinion, though having an October birthday always prejudiced me in its favor. I noticed in college that my GPA was always half a grade higher in the fall.

    • Thanks Amanda! October is my absolute favorite, but I’m super biased by Halloween. =) And the bit about your GPA is just fascinating. I wonder if that’s campus-wide for all schools, actually. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it is!

  • I really like this post Annie! Here in Louisiana, it still feels like summer but that feeling of being on the brink of something exciting is something I can definitely relate to! I must say, I think it’s awesome that you’ve shaped your life to give yourself the opportunity to explore the art that you love so much. When artists do this, it benefits not only the artist but the audiences who have the privilege of reading/experiencing their work- you rock!

  • febe

    I love that feeling. The excessive heat keeps pushing me away from it but I can sense a small spark of it lately.

  • I think I do know what you’re talking about, though I don’t know if the feeling (or web of feelings) is so closely connected to any particular time of year for me. I know I do get nostalgic in the fall, and I do feel a rush of energy; but the same is often true in the spring when the world wakes and unfolds again. Fall and spring are both seasons of contrasts and possibilities and change, and I think that this seeps from the natural world to me.

    • Agreed. Mine intensifies in fall, but it’s there randomly at any time of year. Sometimes it’s so strong I feel overwhelmed by it, but my creativity seems to feed off that sensation, so it works out.

  • Melissa Crytzer Fry

    What a beautiful post. I love that fall elicits these kinds of emotion in you. The desert does the same thing for me pretty much year round, though the slight new coolness in the air has put a little spring in my step,so you may be on to something!

    • Thanks Melissa! I’ve never spent a significant amount of time in the desert, so I wouldn’t know, but I do often get this feeling when I travel in general. Beaches, mountains, you name it.

    • Patrick Ross

      I agree it’s a lovely post. But I will push back against Melissa a little bit (sorry, Melissa!) in saying that while I loved the Arizona desert, my mind was blown when at 22 years old I moved to the mid-Atlantic and experienced my first true fall, with that smell of dying leaves carried across the crisp drying air. It was amazing, and fall officially became my favorite season.

      • I’m with you, Patrick! I think Melissa’s desert photos are all (always) absolutely stunning, but I would sure miss my true autumn with crisp wind and rich leaves! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Natalia Sylvester

    This whole post is so beautiful, and so perfectly describes that undescribable anticipation of the newness of fall. (I’m not quite feeling it yet, though, being in Austin where it’s still 100 degrees each day! 😉 I especially love this: “I hope to get lost in a swirl of beautiful but not quite perfect words, chasing the one that probably doesn’t exist.” Sigh. I love having poets as friends.

    • Thank you Natalia! It’s still in the 90s up here, too, but if you look hard enough for signs, you can spot them. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. 😉

  • A. B. Davis

    This was a beautiful and enjoyable post, Annie! You have so well encompassed all the things that fill me up as fall draws near! I am so happy not to be alone in such a sometimes-overwhelming-because-it-has-too-many-facets emotion. 🙂 Your words about my favorite season and just your writing in general put me in a positive place, mentally and emotionally. Thank you.

  • Laura Rae Amos

    Ah, yes!!! I never put all of that together quite so clearly, but there IS something about this time of year! The anticipation, the energy, the excitement! I definitely feel it too! I’m just about chomping at the bit to get back to my work again after a long, lazy summer. I agree with you about us drawing back on animal instincts to be more “productive” this time of year. Wonderful post! 🙂

    • Thanks Laura! I so love that I’m not the only one who feels this!

  • Nina Badzin

    Yes! There is something about this time of year–notebooks in stores, etc–that feels full of possibility and newness and change and accomplishment. I LOVE it! And I really like your idea that instead of trying to find that one word you’ve found many many words and ideas to capture the feeling.

    • Ah yes, the school supplies. They’re really just pretty office supplies that come once a year. Or as I like to call it, writers’ crack. There are few things better than going to Target and drooling over all of that spiral-lined-pockety goodness. 😉

  • Cynthia Robertson

    What a beautiful post, Annie.
    I know the feeling you describe so beautifully, and eloquently, but like you, don’t have a name for it.
    I wish we felt Autumn coming on down here in Arizona. Unfortunately, we have months of HOT to survive yet. But I’m grateful for this little taste of Northern climes you’ve offered up here. 🙂

    • Thanks Cynthia! It’s funny that you say Northern climes, because I’m in Texas. I guess I should have specified that I’m searching for hints of the impending fall reaaaaaly hard. We’ve recently dropped from 105 every day to 95, and I’m pretty happy with that! 😉

  • Peggy

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!!! I’m amazed by how well you’ve put into words that indefineable existential angst that seems to materialize in the autumn…

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