These six essays originally appeared as the intros to the six issues of our 45th volume. To receive future intros in their original print, sign up here.
I: Welcome Back
Fall is the hardest season. The days are shorter and darker, cold and wet, but not quite cold and wet enough. It's little more than pre-winter. We placate ourselves by getting caught up in fantasy football, soccer, school, work. One fall I thought I'd teach myself a new language. Another, I tried to get in shape for skiing. Neither worked. They were only distractions.
This was a long fall. New job, late nights, compromised relationships, lost perspective. Signs of stress were obvious, but I ignored them. My health and friends were something I'd come back to when I had time.
The season culminated with a death. I made last-minute travel plans to attend the funeral, where I was consumed by the devastating reality of our mortality. It was a reminder of all the clichés I know but love to forget: slow down, be kinder, get the hell off Instagram (that awful bastion of vainglory), and live more freely. That's what the woman who died did while she was alive. She was an unselfconscious, strange goofball who overflowed with compassion until the end.
For me, living with more joy meant one thing: I needed to spend more time in the mountains, with my people. Two days after the funeral, I was napping alone at our family cabin in the woods. The 1930s wooden bunker is a layered cave. The trees are so big, thick, and mossy, they wrap the place up like a blanket. The only sound is the river roaring past. I made a fire and fell back asleep. I was out for the better part of the day.
When I woke, fall was over. It was snowing outside. A steady stream of white flakes fell through the forest. The first snow. Is anything more beautiful? The labyrinth of greens turned white.
I was thankful I brought my skis. I was thankful to be alive. Tomorrow would be a good day.