Always Autumn

Winter’s Wind

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #134. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

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Peripatetic. Orientation. Discourse.

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The year may end, but some things never do. You may not see them with your eyes, but when you look with your heart, you can.

– Dera, Tamako Market

This year, too, has come to an end and now I feel the fall is not so green. Spotify lists, Christmas movies and holiday Muzak do more to weather the cypress needles than intermittent cold fronts in the sub tropics ever could. The autumn’s departure may not mean the end of everything, but that it will return. And as the gentle wind beckons through the leaves I am reminded that ends are never punctual.

The swirl of golden leaves settles as debris, and I can’t help but feel that we are in need of evergreen. For time diminishes the polemics of the past; all that once was green fades to brown. And if this tree is rotten, if it’s invasive, if it’s leaves withered (scorched edges curled up thin), then it will meet winter all the same. When just decay remains, no one will remember how this trunk formed a bridge over the flooded trail floor and how you still splashed into the water. With shoes caked in mud I regret how many of our ends will also elude joy, revise progress.

If death is inevitable in Outer Wilds, then so is Timberhearth. Memory evokes the cozy glow of red and orange in the atmosphere, just campfires with an abundance of marshmallows; a drape of fireflies suspended on a chilly breeze the cooling flames of stellar fusion. It’s as Fitzgerald wrote: “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” And it is on Timberhearth, planet of evergreen arbor, that the postmodern apocalypse unfurls; that, despite our philosophizing, even the old growth forests that have always known green will wither in the dawning night.

But something remains after Timberhearth. Post-everything, a sky, not quite still, silently posits even such grand conclusions as the heat death of the universe are not ends unto themselves. Everything ends, everything returns, everything stays. In this, a lovely death, we can try again, try again, try again.

And again…

…and again…

…and again…

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Autumn Wright is an essayist. They do criticism on games and other media. Find their latest writing at @TheAutumnWright.

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