Autumnal Joy

Autumn has always been my favorite time of year. Spring is a time of year I do look forward too but not as much as Autumn. Fall does win out though due at least somewhat to the vibrant colors and the earthy smells in the air. Both of these seasons are a bit blunted here in Colorado as opposed to how they were in the Midwest where I grew up. Here in Colorado there seems often to be a rather abrupt jump into both summer and winter. We are certainly experiencing that today with cold and snow in late October and with many trees still carrying lots of leaves.

Autumn also was imprinted on me with the return to school. This was especially sharp in the parochial grade school I attended from first grade through the eighth. Ah, the smell of textbooks and the unmistakable aroma of the starch the nuns all used in the habits. My sense of smell was very keen in my youth and this kept the nuns from being able to ever sneak up on me most of the time. These were smells that were actually very comforting to me, I guess you might even call these odors an autumnal joy.

My fondest memories of autumn though date back to my years at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. I was there for five years, from 1967-1972, floundering around trying to decide on a course of study that would lead to some sort of profession and gainful employment. That by the way never happened until I had moved to Denver and discovered nursing. The autumns in question were at the U of I and most likely 1969 and 1970 which coincided with my peak LSD use. I was living communally at the time with anywhere from 4-6 other folks in one old Victorian house or another, we moved or were asked to move a lot in those years. Perhaps the moves were spurred on by the fact that we seemed to have as many dogs as roommates in those days.

My first use of LSD occurred in the fall of 1968 and though I vaguely recalled it as a warm and beautiful autumn afternoon I spent it inside tripping my brains out watching golf on a black and white TV. I thought the game was truly ridiculous but was providing me with many laughs. I still to this day don’t get golf.

There was a nature preserve, somehow connected to the University, to the west of town that a couple of us would visit on occasion, but it was the late autumn visits often after a rain I remember the best. LSD was often involved in these visits and the dramatic sense that we were really one with nature as we hiked through the forest is still easily conjured up by me. I don’t mean to put too much of a spiritual spin on my acid use in those days. Most of the time my tripping was simply a hedonistic adventure often accentuated, or perhaps actually dulled, with the simultaneous use of other substances. The adventure out to nature preserve though as I remember involved only LSD and a designated driver.

At the nature preserve, we rarely encountered anyone else and were able to hike and hang out for hours being totally absorbed in the joys of autumn with the fragrant but decaying leaves piling up on the footpaths. Everything was right with the Universe and we were definitely a part of that. I can still recreate that sense of belonging when walking along 7th ave near my home on a warm autumn day with a colorful cascade of leaves drifting down from the trees along the avenue.  I do believe one can achieve this sense of being a part of the cosmic dance without the aid of hallucinogens but for me being the lazy fuck I am in was a nice kick in the pants. I do believe it was a genuine connection now 50 years later and that from those acid aided hikes I can still conjure up autumnal joy.