On the open road (Photo by Sarah Peck)

Something about the rustle of the wind changes when the summertime ends. The heat is still there, but the undertones of the wind are brisk, cool, and cleaner somehow. I feel like the sky is a bit brighter, even as the end of the day shifts towards becoming darker earlier, and I shiver and reach for my jackets, scarves, gloves, and hats. I’m excited, because the changing of seasons means that it’s time to start school again.

Except I don’t go to school anymore. I go to work, where the seasons are less differentiated within the singular office walls, the time is continuous, and vacation is packaged into a tiny window of  ten allotted days for each year, resulting in a never-ending lifestyle that is, (I sigh) work. After spending the first 24 of my 26 years of life heading back to school and reaching for new school supplies, opening up new textbooks, and starting new classes, it’s hard to shake the fact that I’m living in the “adult” world now, and that the changing seasons don’t mean much more than a continuation of the same day-in and day-out work effort.

Looking out the office window, I still remember the freshman heartbeat – the feeling of leaving home, wandering a large, beautiful campus on your own, setting up the dormitory bed and peeking out the window to make friends. I remember watching crowds of people laughing and congregating in front of buildings, and quickly becoming a vibrant part of the student activities’ center and classrooms. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment when I, as a freshman, transitioned from a careful, watchful observer to the faithful student who associated this new place – and the assemblage of buildings, lights, classrooms, open spaces, and houses – as a “home.”

For me, my college campus became my home after I took a long plane flight back to California after experiencing my first snowy Ohio winter. It was great to be home, but I was – I was ME, new and different. I was on my own, independent, changed somehow. I no longer lived at my parents. I made my own schedule. I slept when I wanted, walked where I wanted to go, and studied under my own accord. I had made a home for myself on the large blue couches in the library, met fellow students and smiled shyly at boys that I thought were cute, and had interesting discussions with professors. I made the swim team and practiced for hours under the tutelage of the head coach, befriending fellow teammates and sharing in the camaraderie of early-morning practices and groaning at the late-night parties across the hall by the football team.

The fall, to me, is more ingrained in my mind as the true calendar than any other calendar I follow – moreso than the New Year’s (Jan 1) or the Fiscal  Calendar (July 1). In the fall, even the trees shake off their old looks, let their leaves drop to the ground, dig down their roots and set in for winter, prepping for a hard winter and a fresh start in the spring. I can’t wait to crunch through the fall leaves, try on some new boots, and possibly get a haircut to celebrate the changing of the seasons.

And so, in the spirit of heading back to school, and with a nostalgia for fall, I’m doing the same thing this fall that I’ve done all of my life: taking out my notebooks and pens, writing down my to-do lists, and setting my goals for the (academic) year.  Fall is a time for goal-setting, for reflecting on past accomplishments, and for cleaning out the closets and dusting off the old bookshelves. It’s a time to look back on the goals from those long-forgotten New Year’s Resolutions, and to perhaps check-in on our progress we’ve made so far this year on our rusty old resolutions. Just because I’m now a “grown up” and I go to work doesn’t mean that in my heart I’m not still a student. And, as the perpetual student and dreamer that I am, I like to make lists. So open up a fresh notebook, Fall students, because here comes another goals list for the 2010-2011 academic calendar. I just can’t help myself.

Image from: http://tips4india.in/

And, of course, my fall reading list (I love reading lists!):

Landscape Architecture, Urbanism and Infrastructure:

  • The Great Urban Transformation: Politics of Land and Property in China
  • The Infrastructural City: Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles
  • Center 14: On Landscape Urbanism
  • The Landscape of Contemporary Infrastructure
  • Trees of San Francisco
  • Smart Growth in a Changing World

Economics, Policy, and Money:

  • The Forgotten Man
  • The Diary of a Very Bad Year

Development, Professional Growth, and Business:

  • Millenials
  • The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World
  • Good to Great

And for Fun!

  • War and Peace
  • Her Fearful Symmetry
  • Stones into Schools
  • Once a Runner

If you know of any great books you’d like to recommend, please share. I LOVE book suggestions. Happy Fall, everyone!

Fall Hammock, Oregon (Photo by Sarah)