I’ve never been much of a nature girl.
My idea of nature is Central Park—that quintessential manmade hybrid of natural landscapes smack dab in the middle of the most heavily populated city in America. It has all the beautiful towering trees, animals, ponds, and flowers found in nature, but skyscrapers still peek beyond the trees, and cars still honk in the distance. It’s a hybrid that’s always brought me comfort and has allowed me to dip my toes into nature without jumping in headfirst. I’ve always enjoyed the balance of having one foot out—being surrounded by nature while simultaneously knowing that just in the distance my city awaits, whichever city that happens to be at the time.
Summer has always been my favorite. I’m probably biased because my birthday is in August, but growing up I’ve always adored the summer sun and heat and freedom from school. Autumn meant the end of all of those things, and so autumn always used to depress me.
In recent years, mainly since I’ve graduated college, I’ve learned to appreciate autumn like I never truly did in the past. Autumn has become a significant time for me, and it’s become a time of year I look back on with a sense of nostalgia.
Over the past few days, the temperatures have significantly dropped in my small town in Wisconsin. Amongst the numerous thunderstorms, the sun still shines, but there’s a crispness in the air that has replaced the summer humidity. My mornings are now spent with hot coffee and the coziest sweatshirt I can find. And since autumn is steadily approaching (whether I like it or not), I’ve felt even more nostalgic lately.
Today I took a walk through a nature path that I’ve walked probably hundreds of times over the past several years. It’s become one of my favorites because it’s right in my comfort level—that blend of nature within a small-town community, houses still visible through the trees. Throughout the years I was almost never without my headphones, but today I ventured on my walk without (mainly because my cat decided to destroy said headphones and I have not yet purchased a new pair; cats are the worst). Usually on my walks I was lost in Florence + The Machine songs, most often her first two albums, Lungs and Ceremonials. It always felt as if she’d written her songs for me, releasing a new album whenever I needed it, the songs ironically conveying exactly what I was experiencing in my life at the time.
As I walked the nature path sans music (and, therefore, sans distraction), I concentrated on my nostalgia and the memories of this path. Around this time throughout the past several years, I’ve walked with family members, dogs who have since passed away, and alone.
Even though autumn hits towards the end of the year, it still gives me a feeling of new beginnings. Not only does is harken back to my school and college days, but even after college graduation, many of my biggest life transitions have occurred right around this time. New jobs, moving halfway across the country to New Jersey, and new relationships (or breakups), have all happened as summer disappears and autumn is in the air.
For the first time in what feels like a long time, I’m walking this path at the end of the summer without a life transition ahead of me. While I have nothing in my immediate future to look to and wonder of its possibilities, as I walked along my favorite nature path, I nostalgically thought about my past and the transitions I’ve ventured through.
Over the years I have changed so much that I don’t recognize the girl I was in 2011. Sometimes I view that realization negatively, but today I don’t. I realize now that over the years I have experienced hardships, pain, and changes that I never could have imagined as a recent college graduate. And even though in my darkest times I thought these experiences had torn me down and weakened me, I realize today that they truly haven’t. I’m scarred, but I’m stronger now. I’ve proven to myself that no matter what I go through, I’m still here, and I’m capable of continuing to walk this path.
As the leaves are already changing (which for me feels far too early), I reminisce. I was a different girl walking this path years ago, but the path has not changed. I have a new perspective and am a new person, returning to a path that brings comfort because of its familiarity. A path that stays the same, no matter what I’ve done, who I’ve been, where I go, or how long I stay away. The path is always there, waiting for my return. It remains unchanging, and I’m grateful for that.