Fall is the season for reflection, as we take stock of what was done and not done while the sun shone.
Fall is when the year seems to begin, particularly with the start of school, if you’re a child or a parent of one. This year, my two younger daughters, Tam and Zoe, have started their senior year of college, which may be their last year of school.
Both are 21 now. Both are not only going about the now-familiar routines of college but contemplating the time that will follow, which stretches out toward the horizon.
Where they will go, what they will do is undecided, and the uncertainty ahead is like a coming storm that charges the atmosphere.
I don’t envy their circumstances now. I enjoy the predictabilities of my 50s. One of those is participating in the joys and sorrows of my children.
But it will be a great opportunity for them, after they graduate, to be standing on the ledge of the unknown, the future around them like mist, not knowing where they will plunge in but knowing different choices may lead different ways.
I love the line spoken by Hamlet to Horatio: “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends/Rough-hew them how we will,” which I take to mean our course has been set already, and it is up to us only to follow it.
Twelve years ago, when the girls were in third grade, I wrote a column about going with them down to a favorite spot of ours just above the Feeder Dam, where we liked to find flat stones and skip them out into the river.
The column is wistful about the girls getting older — demanding, for instance, that I put a door on their bedroom — and thrilled by their growing boldness and independence.
They loved to ride their bikes in those days, standing up on the pedals and zooming down the hills.
We rode to our stone-skipping spot and Tam built a boat out of birch bark and launched it. It looked fragile, but it sailed. The current pulled it around and out into the river.
Zoe found some fat sticks that she hurled out over the dark water. They flew far out, growing small in our sight before splashing down.
They were 9 years old that summer.
Now Tam, the art student, is making sculptures inspired by nature and putting them out in the world.
Zoe is in her fourth year as a thrower on the track and field team at UAlbany, still picking things up and hurling them into the sky.
The column 12 years ago had the headline, “Going out into the unknown.” Leaving school for whatever will follow it seems a larger unknown than growing up, becoming teenagers, moving from high school to college.
But maybe the future is not so clouded. Maybe our headings are determined early on, and the business of our lives is not deciding which way we are going but discovering it.