We Americans are used to the Brits weighing in on our affairs. I try to view their concerns with compassion, as a hard-to-kick habit leftover from the pre-Revolution days, or an endearing tendency they can’t help, like when your mother continues to remind you to wear a coat in winter even after you’re well into your forties.
But our English cousins have finally crossed the line. Writing for the Guardian, Arwa Mahdawi vilifies that which we Yanks hold most sacred: “the season they call ‘fall.’” According to Mahdawi, autumn is “overrated” “rubbish.” Instead of pumpkin-spicing everything, she suggests we elevate another squash variety, “the humble courgetti,” as our favorite flavor profile of the season.
I simply cannot let such abuse go unchallenged.
My first take on Mahdawi’s view of fall is that she’s jealous. She writes that the season “has been commercialized to an extent I don’t think any other season has.” In fact, that America has managed to make money out of dropping temperatures and dying leaves is a testament to our tremendous entrepreneurial know-how. We make and spend money by hyping something we had absolutely nothing to do with, and we do not apologize.
Mahdawi’s second censure of fall is unfortunate, but proves she’s really grasping at straws. “The leaves turning different colors are pretty, I’ll happily admit that,” she writes. “I’m not dead inside. You know what is dead inside, though? Those leaves. The trees don’t want them so they kick them off and they rot on the floor and turn into a soggy mess that harbors mold and releases spores that give me allergies.”
Where to begin. Mahdawi writes that her favorite season is spring (seriously?!). And you know what else gives allergies? Pollen from flowers and grasses and weeds and trees and all that stuff that blooms everywhere in the spring. Mahdawi can’t handle a few sniffles in the fall, out of respect for the dying leaves that worked so hard all year to feed our majestic trees? Perhaps if Mahdawi viewed fall as a “second spring,” as Camus did, “when every leaf is a flower,” she would find the season more tolerable.
Yes, those leaves are dead, and the fact that they go out in a blaze of glory while breathing their last is the best part. They remind us that even death can be beautiful, and also, YOLO.
Furthermore, has Mahdawi ever seen a dead or dying springtime flower? A withering, crusty old daffodil is the saddest thing ever, especially when you recall how much joy and optimism the cheery yellow bloom brought you when you first saw it peeping its head through the snow in March. Brilliant dead autumn leaves, by contrast, go from strength to strength, vibrant green to vibrant red, never skipping a beat ‘til they hit the ground and keep right on giving.
Which brings us to Madhawi’s “rotting on the floor and turning into a soggy mess” complaint. Let’s revisit Environmental Science 101. Though these decaying leaves may temporarily give Mahdawi allergies, they offer many benefits to the grassy yard Madhawi prefers in springtime. Treehugger.com tells us raking and bagging leaves is dumb, and leaving the leaves to nourish our yards is a much better idea (leaving us more time to drink pumpkin spice ale):
Fallen leaves, as an additional physical layer of organic materials above ground, provide food, shelter, and nesting or bedding materials to a variety of wildlife, as well as overwintering protection for a number of insects, all of which work together to contribute to a healthy yard.
The soil itself is also a beneficiary of this autumnal gift of fallen leaves, as the leaves are essentially composted over time into nutrients that feed both the next year’s ‘crop’ of grass, but which also feed a vast number of microbes in the soil, which are actually the most important ‘crop’ you can grow, considering that all plant life in your yard depends on a healthy soil biology.
Addressing our American fondness for apple-picking, Madhawi acknowledges the person who “decided to rebrand manual labor as a fun seasonal activity people pay stupid amounts of money to do” was a “genius.” But doesn’t this make the people who succumb to such branding “stupid” also? Or perhaps apple-pickers realize we’ve gotten so far away from the outdoorsy life human beings were designed for that they’re willing to pay for a piece of that throwback lifestyle. Kind of like buying a gym membership or paying to go camping.
Fall is an innocent season full of simple pleasures. As the influencer who coined “Christian Girl Autumn” explained to the New York Times, “I’m literally as basic as people think I am.”
There’s nothing more basic than appreciating nature’s goodness and celebrating it with a comforting beverage, a cozy snack, and time outdoors in wholesome, fun pursuits with friends and families relishing the beauty of creation. Plus, I think we can all agree the human experience gets better when everyone starts covering up a bit more than we do in “Hot Girl Summer.” If “Christian Girl Autumn” doesn’t appeal to Madhawi, she might consider my preference: Han Solo Season.