The leaves outside my office have turned a brilliant shade of orange-red. There’s a distinct chill in the air at night, and leaving the window open a crack makes the thick quilts on our bed mandatory, instead of decorative. Driving south yesterday at dawn, the fields were thick with hoarfrost, clouds of mist rising above the glazed grasses as the sun rose.
There’s one inescapable conclusion: it’s conference season.
I don’t know if conference planners highlight certain months on their calendars, but history suggests that October is high season to bring people together and lock them in airless rooms lined with industrial carpeting. It’s not summer, when people with kids go on vacation, and travel is inexpensive, because there are no travel-heavy holidays. There’s rarely snow on the ground (unless you’re in Buffalo), which is a major constraint for conferences in the North.
But it’s the most beautiful time of year to be home. My wife Rachel used to work for the artist Jenny Holzer, who found herself in Bilbao installing a piece during October. She would call the office every day and ask whether the leaves were still on the trees. As fall edged into winter, Rachel and the other assistants found themselves lying to her, promising that there might be a little color left by the time she got home. The story made me so sad that I’ve had an unofficial moratorium on international travel in October ever since.
But the conferences keep coming, and I keep going. So less than 72 hours after returning from Idea Festival in Louisville, I’m packing for Pop!Tech in Camden, ME. (Fall will be in full swing there as well, giving a very good reason to hold a conference in Maine in late October…) Idea Festival was good fun – it was great to see a futurism conference that focused on being accessible to as many people as possible, making many events free, and even the most exclusive costing $25 for a ticket, rather than the thousands of dollars it costs for a seat at TED or Pop!Tech. (And it was great to meet Wayne Hall, whose excellent blogging on the Idea Festival blog convinced me to accept an invitation to Louisville.)
I just wish everyone could get together and declare an October travel moratorium. Or just decide to hold all their conferences here in the Berkshires. We’ve got room – really. You can stay at my place, in the ger if you’d like.