The Symbolism of Autumn – The Calm Before the Storm

Autumn, the season where nature starts to slow down, takes a break and gets ready for its rest through winter.  Squirrels and other critters run around gathering food to last them through the cold winter months, while most birds migrate.  Deciduous trees lose their leaves, going dormant so that they can weather the harsh conditions.  Conversely, the coniferous trees stand proud, their dark green or blue needles standing defiantly through the white wasteland that many places in the world become.

I can only speak for myself on this one, but I feel that it’s a metaphor for life in general.  Every living organism on this planet has their own way of handling the icy months of winter.  These coping strategies vary as much as the living organisms themselves do.

Whenever I see this preparation for the cold times, it reminds me of people I know.

One friend, who always complains about the Buffalo, NY winters dreams of Florida during those cold months.  He slows down, gets depressed, goes dormant.  Just like the deciduous trees.

Others I know fill their home with firewood and buy extra at the grocery store every week just so that they’ll have to brave the elements that much less.  They remind me of the squirrels and other animals that do a little preparation ahead of time.

The wealthier people I know just leave.  They go to Florida, or some other warm destination and enjoy their winters there.  They migrate, just like birds.

But then there are the people, like myself, who actually enjoy winter.  Something about the harsh conditions speak to them, and instead of autumn being a warning that the harsh, cold months are on their way, they take it as a sign that their season is coming.  They are the coniferous trees and cardinals of the world.

I always found it to be a beautiful metaphor for a common phrase we’ve all heard and probably used.

The Calm Before the Storm.

In our lives and in the things that we write, there is always a calm before the storm.  A period in the story where the characters sense that something is coming, but they’re not sure what.

All they know is that whatever it may be, it’s not here yet, but once it arrives it’ll arrive in a big way.

What I hope you’ll think about, if you haven’t already, is what do your characters do in the calm before the storm?

Do they panic and fly away?

Do they gather their supplies and hunker down, ready to face it?

Do they simply hide, and try to stay as far way from the storm as possible?

Or do they stare into the storm with an eager look and whisper, “Let it come.”

Now, there’s no right or wrong way to answer this question.  Like I said about nature, the ways of dealing with this phenomenon is as varied as the people who have to cope.

But it’s always something good to know about your characters.

Will they behave in line with what we expect them to do?  Will the stalwart hero prepare to weather the storm or challenge it?  Or does he do the unexpected, and fly away in fear?

The reason I bring this up, is because this is an excellent time to reveal who your characters really are.

The game clock has only seconds left on it.  What do your characters do, and why?

This can be used as an excellent dramatic device to flip a character onto his head, while still suspending disbelief.

Heroes can become cowards and the cowards can be a force of nature that no one, especially the reader, ever saw coming.

Just like autumn, I feel these moments hold a primordial power, something that strikes us on an instinctual level.  The cross cultural celebration of this time of years throughout history proves this, and I’ll discuss it more in my Halloween post, which will be available in a few weeks.

It’s not something to be ignored in your writing.  I feel that if you do, your work will be the lesser for it.

So what do you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  Think I’m nuts?  Whatever you do think, please leave your thoughts in the comments below.


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