Here at The Atlantic Wire, we love all the seasons, from gorgeous spring to freezing cold winter, until we tire of each and then complain and flee as soon as we possibly can. Heave ho, summer; hello, fall, and so on! Well, the trappings of the autumnal seasonal varietal are here: Fashion Week, the creeping darkening of the night, sudden bursts of coolness to replace the oppressive heat and sweatiness, acceptably pale skin (covered by cashmere!) to replace the visible red rashes and mosquito bites and sunburns of summer. Soon there will be pumpkins in the streets and root veggies in the green markets; Halloween and then Thanksgiving decorations in the drugstores; an array of handcrafted soups available from your lunchtime establishment; a certain renewed vigor to the air.
Back in May, so many months ago, we wrote some notes to help you get ready for summer. Here we go again, this time for the season of leef-peeping, long walks in the woods, tailgating, jackets, apple picking and apple cider, pumpkin-infused beers, hot chocolate, ponchos, red wine, and whatever else it is you love about the emergent season. Here's your fall guide for fall.
Go back to school. Don't stand around watching kids go off to college, feeling jealous. Don't stand around watching college kids in general, it's creepy, but most importantly don't feel jealous. Yes, they are going off to enjoy all the freedom of adulthood with none of the responsibility, to party and have wanton sex, and also to learn, and wouldn't it be so nice to learn again. So there is much to feel jealous about there, but only if you don't go "back to school" yourself. Meaning, take a class! Buy that Rosetta Stone thing you saw on the TV and finally learn French. Just because you're not technically "in school," it doesn't mean you can't expand your mind like all those bright youngsters are doing right now. Do it. You'll feel great. Also, party and have tons of wanton sex. Oh god, so much of it. Spend this fall gettin' down and freaky. People will wonder what's come over you, some will say you've changed, but you'll just yell "College!!!" at them as beer sluices out of your mouth and you go stumbling after your date for the evening. It's gonna be a great autumn.
Buy some frozen stuff you can stick in the oven, and some canned stuff you can put on the stove. No longer is your apartment or house so terribly, terribly overheated that you have to run the air conditioner constantly in order for it to maintain a livable temperature. You can use the oven! If you're the type who enjoys cooking, this is a whole new world for you. Casseroles and whatnot, maybe a lasagna, stuff you wouldn't dare eat all summer because it was simply too heavy, too hot. Gazpacho time is over, now, and hot soup time is here. If you're less of a chef, per se, you can also just use your oven to heat up frozen dinners, or your stove to warm up cans of soup, because at least they're not cold raw veggies or kale or popsicles. Variety is the spice of life. And with all the money you save by not running your A.C., you can buy the good cheese to crumble atop your Annie's tomato bisque.
Fall in love. It's in the name of the season, for goodness sakes: Fall. You can hardly resist. But also, after the itchy/scratchy/sand-in-your-swimsuit/air-conditioning-based relationships of summer, fall is the perfect time to start anew, and to do it differently one more time. That newfound chill in the air means that holding hands is no longer a slippery, sticky occasion; that cuddling together under the covers is not only pleasant, it can be preferable for warmth purposes. Plus, there are so many terribly wholesome coupley things to do together in the fall, like going to football games (get yourself a fall team), going for long walks in the park or drives to see fall foliage, selecting your pumpkin from the nearby farm and then carving it, antiquing (that's something people do in the fall, right?) in nearby adorable small towns, sharing a hot plate of spaghetti that you slurp from either side and turns out to be just one long strand, so then you kiss, just like in that movie about dogs in love. Yep, it's pretty bucolic, this fall.
Buy those tickets to wherever you're going for the holidays. Especially if a ticket is necessary, and that place is somewhere warm, like, say, Florida, or somewhere that gets crowded with types from the North heading down to places in the South (also like Florida) you should buy your plane ticket now and make your travel arrangements for most economy and efficiency. If you don't want to go anywhere and plan to stay right where you are, start thinking about how you're going to feed the guests who will inevitably want to come eat turkey over at your house, given all that oven-practice you've been up to and your great fall foliage album.
Find your perfect gourd, or leaf, or representative piece of seasonal nature. With so much beauteous ephemeral outdoorsiness suddenly surrounding you, it's hard to know where to look! So, look everywhere. But then take a photo of whatever it is you see—that perfect leaf or strange gourd that looks like a tiny human man or the way the sun slants in the sky at 6 p.m.—and Facebook the crap out of it, because beach pics are over and fall atmosphere shots are totally where it's at. Alternatively, if you are the type who whiles away your fall watching football in a bar, well, claim your barstool now by taking a picture of it, because that is basically your form of nature, and it's not like you have to feel guilty about being inside once it starts getting cold. If, even more alternatively, you are the type who insists on running outside, this is the perfect time for running outside, so run like the wind, RUN like a crisp fall breeze in your fancy wicking running pants that can finally replace those shorts you wore all summer.
Take that autumn trip you keep saying you're going to take. Maybe at some point this summer or during the spring you went somewhere — a state park, a cute little town, wherever — and said to whoever you were with, "Oh I bet it's so nice here in the fall." And you made plans to come back and see it, to leaf peep and feel cozy in your sweater as you strolled around. You've done this many times before, of course. You're still supposed to see Boston in October, Minnewaska in brisk November, etc. Only this year you should actually do it. Just go and do it. Rent the damn car or hire the darn babysitter and go. It will be as nice as you always imagined, with the trees blazing with color, the air cool and bracing, and of course you won't be a sweaty monster while walking around all day because it's fall. There's probably no better time to see a place! Or, well, certain places. Save that trip to North Dakota for the summer, definitely.
Select your signature seasonal cocktail. You can, of course, drink rose all year long, but it's nice to switch things up. Why not try a nice red wine? Or perhaps a whiskey, for a warmth that extends through your limbs into the wee chilly hours of the morn? What about something named, appropriately, Octoberfest or something with a pumpkin on it, or in it? No need for ice cubes or kitschy adornments—fall drinks are an exercise in beautiful simplicity, minus that pumpkin shtick. Choose wisely so that it lasts you into December.
Do the wardrobe dance. Throw away all those gamey, stained T-shirts and tank tops and treat yourself to some new ones, or at the very least, shove your summer dresses and shorts and swimsuits and flip flops that you really, really, really should get rid of because they are toxic under the bed and restock your accessible closet space with layering gear, sweaters and light jackets and heavier jackets and even coats. Tights! Remember tights? And socks, touch them, remember them, your old friends, back again. Shoes with closed toes, shoes that are suede, shoes that do not involve plastic. All of them are now yours again. If your "wardrobe" involves new school supplies, take this moment to buy some new school supplies. You say Trapper, we say Keeper.
Go apple picking. Yes it sounds lame, but trust us, it's fun. It really is fun! You get to be out in the country, in the sunshine, everything smells nice, and then after that you get to eat nothing but apples for the next three weeks of your life. But the real treat of apple picking is who you take with you. It could be your new autumn fling, it could be an old love, it could just be a photogenic group of friends, all of you there in your cute fall wear, corduroys and cable knits, all that. There is no better way to feel like you are living in a cheery but wistful movie montage than going to pick some damn apples in the country with some friends. Doesn't matter if you even like apples. You can throw the things out the car window on the way home for all we care. What matters is when people drive by the orchard as you're picking, they'll see you and sigh and say, "Oh, we should do that sometime," and then, right then, you will basically be perfect.
Breathe. Through your nostrils. This is because after the stinky siege of summer, the human and garbage and general urban stew of smells, you can breathe deep and smell things like moss. Leaves. Rain. Hot coffee. Air. Fresh-baked breads. Apple pie. The air suddenly smells good, doesn't it? That's called fall. What promise it holds.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.