Fall finally arrived yesterday, at least in North Carolina, and the cool, overcast weather today made it official. One day is an anomaly, two days is a change. Fall has always been my favorite season, but it’s also the saddest. There’s a wistful feeling in the air that always makes me nostalgic, even if I don’t know exactly what I’m missing.
And why is it that when we’re sad, we like to listen to sad music? Isn’t that strange? We choose songs that reflect our mood rather than ones that might change it. Wouldn’t it make more sense to put on upbeat, jangly music to cure our melancholy? The answer is yes, it would, except that it doesn’t work. Or, if it does work, it works about as often as someone saying, ‘hey, cheer up!’ It would be impossible for me to say why this is true, but if I had to form a broad guess, I’d hazard that we’re not simple creatures, and in reality it makes more sense for most of us to deepen our moods, do some spiritual wallowing, and then emerge on the other end. It’s paradoxical, but sometimes a paradox contains a hidden logic.
At this time of year, I find myself returning to the same handful of songs that have accompanied me in winters past. Call them ‘Fleeting Season’ songs. Fall, after all, is the shortest season. Sometimes it barely seems to come at all. If I had to pinpoint a common thread among the songs that follow, it’s that they contain an elusive quality that washes through your stomach and leaves you sad without quite knowing why. These are not ‘heartbreaking’ songs. Heartbreaking songs can be wonderful, but they’re usually overt. You know what you’re hearing, and they’re designed to move you. These are not epic songs, with concrete stories and a narrative arc. These songs are about love, but they’re not love songs. These songs are not tornadoes or hurricanes, but fleeting gusts of wind that evoke some memory you can’t quite place. And you feel that if you could just find that wind again, that same rush of air, you’d know for sure.