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The lesson of fall 

Fall unfolds. The quilt on the bed. The windows up at night. Morning air biting at your feet as you rise.

Remember summer? In stiffly conditioned air we would aim our plans at the world. Grabbing our car keys, confident, we punched our way outside, only to have heavy, airless August suffocate our joys before the storm door could whack behind us.

Fall is why we all stay in Arkansas. Yes, it's among the prettiest places in the country for the season, but let's face it, if summer lasted another month, we would all go mad.

If it weren't for October, no pioneers would've ever stopped here. I can only imagine that there was a time in the late 19th century in Arkansas when the land was littered with half-houses. Hapless nomads settling the land in spring, then finally giving up sometime in late summer, muttering, "It's just too damn hot here," and heading north, or east, or west.

Arkansans are a durable people and October is the reward for the stout-hearted who stayed. The tops of trees start changing, the smell of the cinders burn and we look around for that bold soul with the first smoking chimney. Whether it's on a porch swing, or just standing in the yard, we all have our fall moment. The world exhales. We nuzzle in.

But more than that, there is something vulnerable about fall. There is need there. Each year is an aging man. If spring is when nature enlivens us, and summer is when he shows his power, fall is when he darkens and cracks. Shorter days. Longer shadows. Spring is for dreaming. Fall is for settling in, for reflection, for regrets.

And maybe that's why we appreciate fall so much. For the relief from the oppressively hot, yes, but also for the stillness. For the perspective. Our minds quiet, our grasp meets our reach, and our year matures.

There are certainly more benign climates, but nobody ever learns much in paradise. People spread out in the warmth. They stand alone, radiating heat. But here, our state gives us a gift each year. We get our heads about us. We step off the bucking bronco and we look back.

Boy, we were a mess in the spring. We realize that now. We'll be better from here on.

When you're 23, you're dumb enough to be confident. The older you get, the more aware you become that you're an emotional shambles.

There's a lesson in the seasons changing. There's comfort in the vulnerability of fall. We relate to it because we're broken too. Because not only are we not invincible; we're not even secure. Because we need each other. A bitter wind comes in, and the lesson comes. Reach out for each other and prepare for what's next.

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