Facebook shared a memory with me the other day. It was a photo of me with three of my best friends from college, taken during a fall hunting trip. We were posed in the woods, all decked out in camo, and laughing at something; most likely someone being ribbed for missing a squirrel earlier in the day. We had gathered at the family cabin of one of the guys in the group, and spent a weekend walking the woods together, shotguns in hand, and sharing stories and whiskey by firelight. We were all students at the time, and were bogged down with the pressures of classes and projects, work responsibilities, and social lives. But as the days shortened and the cool, crisp mornings began to settle in, we felt the need to get away and find a gathering place. The draw of a cabin in the autumn woods was irresistible to a bunch of kids from the country that had been stuck in classrooms all semester, and we were all too eager to accept the invitation.
There’s something about fall that brings people together. It’s a season of gathering in so many ways. There’s a reason that when you think of fall you picture people gathered around fires at family cabins or hunting camps, or around tables of food at football tailgates or holiday get-togethers. Each season seems to hold its own energy; a sensibility for how we relate to the transition in nature around us. In spring, we embrace the idea of new life, and allow ourselves to feel rejuvenated. In autumn, we celebrate a season of harvest, where we reap the rewards of the work we’ve done throughout the year. It’s a season of reflection and gratitude. It’s in this sense of celebration where the urge to gather is rooted. We want to share our harvest with each other. We want to share in the warmth of a communal fire and each other’s company.
Just as every season has its own vibe, each also holds its own set of memories. For me, fall means hunting memories. Some of our oldest traditions as humans involve gathering to hunt in groups. It’s one that we have carried with us through the ages, and has been adapted to virtually every culture. For modern hunters in the American South, our entire year revolves around it. For many of us, however, the tradition of fall hunting camp isn’t about the hunting at all. It’s about the camaraderie. Fall hunting is the tradition in which I was raised, and I think even if I stopped hunting some day, the season would still be forever associated with that lifestyle in my subconscious. Growing up, I would spend almost every fall weekend at my Grandpa’s farm, hoping for a shot at a deer. But the memories I have aren’t centered on the hunts themselves or the game I pursued. They’re about the people I shared the time with; making the drive with my brother, the evenings spent in my grandparents’ home; walks around the farm with the two of them. I would see more of my family during those months than any other time of the year. The season would call us, and we would gather.
For some, fall may mean a ski cabin in the mountains. It may revolve around college football, or prepping for the holidays. The common thread is the act of drawing people in and sharing time together. Fall can be a gathering place in both time and space. It is a season of the year, but the essence of fall can also be manifested in a physical place. When I look back at that photo with my friends, everything about it is fall to me; the orange leaves, the hunting attire, the cabin that is just out of frame; but most of all, it’s the people and the memories of our gathering that bring the essence of fall rushing back. If you never have before, use this season to gather your people close, in whatever way is meaningful to you.
Author: Emily Courtney