I love fall in New England. It’s been five years since I’ve been here through an entire autumn, and I’ve missed it all: the gradual blazing of foliage, walking across ground carpeted with fallen leaves, brisk, sunny days that hint at winter’s gathering cold, the proliferation of apple cider, pumpkin ale and butternut squash.

It’s hard to know for sure (especially when caught umbrella-less in a sudden downpour) but I think I love the darker, chillier side of fall as well: the unpredictable cold snaps, menacing gusts and squalls that, leaf by leaf, knock down the gorgeous splendor, and the occasional afternoon of bone-chilling driving rain.

Yes, I think I definitely missed the bad bits of fall, as well as the good ones. Every year that I was away, the string of weeks running through October to November were never quite beautiful enough, but more than that, they were boring. I love fall because it’s a changing season. Every day is different, as you can tell by how easy it is to notice the late rising of the sun and it’s shifting departure from the sky, every evening earlier than the night before.

I love the sense of a world in flux that is so palpable in the fall, when to me time seems to go faster not just because of the shrinking hours of daylight but also because our calendar year is rushing towards its close, and I really think time is felt differently, depending on how we measure its elapsing.

A beautiful fall day in Maine.

These last few months of the year—October, November, December—feel shorter to me. The year is coming to an end, and as much as time may want to hesitate, slowing his pace so he can gather his thoughts before he has to rush into another year, starting the rhythm of days all over again, he can’t. Time marches on…and does more of his marching in the dark.

Part of fall makes me want to hibernate; i want to curl up beneath a blanket with tea and a novel, knit mittens, cook stew, and drink hot chocolate while doing a jigsaw puzzle. And part of fall makes me want to go for long walks every afternoon, basking in the sun, gazing at leaves, buying caramel apples and petting happy, happy dogs.

Clearly, I idealize fall a little bit…the truth is I spend most of my time as I always do. Working, reading, writing, eating, sleeping, etc. But time does feel a bit different to me, and crimson maple trees and pints of October ale aside, it may well be this awareness of time–of the preciousness of time–that makes me love fall the most. I pay attention, every day, to the light, and the leaves, and the wind (and yes, the rain, and the cold). I effortlessly notice things that sometimes, at other points in the year, I have to compel myself to pay attention to, like how beautiful the Charles is, or how much I like the wild, overgrown garden of a certain purple house a few blocks from my apartment.

So in the spirit of fall (or in the spirit of my totally wicked awesome idealized New England fall) wherever you are this week, even if your hemisphere is telling you emphatically that it’s not actually fall, it’s spring, take a few moments just to notice things. Whatever kind of things you want.