If you believe what you read on the Internet, a new menace is ravaging the peace of people across the nation: FoMO, or the fear of missing out. The term refers to the anxiety that pushes people to incessantly check their phones for texts, Tweets, or Facebook updates, a compulsion fueled by the suspicion that something exciting is happening somewhere other than here. If a FOMO-afflicted person were to unplug for an hour or even an instant, who knows what sort of essential information they might miss during that down time. FOMO rests on the assumption that interesting things frequently happen elsewhere to other people but seldom happen wherever I am, right now.
Every autumn, I experience my own low-tech version of FOMO, but instead of worrying that I’m missing the status updates of others, I worry that I’ll blink and miss the ephemeral instant that is fall. New England has been gradually ripening for weeks, with a hint of color here and a burnish of color there. Every year, I worry that this year’s autumnal display will somehow not live up to my memory of autumns past: maybe this year will be one of those subpar seasons where the leaves get blown down before reaching their peak color, or maybe I simply will miss the best of the fall foliage because I’m too busy grading papers.
Maybe this year, in other words, I’ll Miss Out on the kaleidoscopic show that is autumn in New England, a sad scenario that would leave me ill-equipped to deal with the bleak monochrome monotony that is winter. If I fail to absorb every last hue of fall, how will I ever cope with the dismal days to come?
Autumn is spectacular in New England, but it’s a fast-paced performance with many costume changes. As a photographer, I know that if I wait to get the perfect shot, it’s likely I’ll miss that fleeting moment of perfection: leaves change, fall, and blow away too quickly for that. Appreciating autumn is like aiming for a moving target: the tree that was breathtakingly beautiful yesterday might very well stand stripped of leaves today. If you missed getting this morning’s shot of a handful of red maple leaves stippled with raindrops, you’ll find they have dried and blown away by afternoon.
Last week on my way to my office at Framingham State, I noticed a hot-pink cluster of burning bush (Euonymus atropurpureus, or wahoo) berries ripening above head-level behind O’Connor Hall. I don’t remember seeing burning bush in this spot last fall: I don’t remember seeing wahoo berries anywhere on campus last year. How did I ever make it through the gray days of this past winter without the memory of burning wahoo berries to cheer me? Just think what I would have missed out on had I had my nose glued to my phone.