Monday, September 20, 2010

Ode to Autumn

Well, we never did get our rain last night. Our next chance is on Wednesday. Our gardens in my neighbourhood could definitely use the rain. The ground is parched. The grass is a dry, brittle, sun-bleached yellow. The lawns themselves haven't grown more than a fraction of an inch in weeks and the only thing that is growing is that rough, imposter grass that is actually a weed. The stalks stick up every so often but aren't noticeable that it's worth mowing.

It's been warm again. This week, we're supposed to get back up to near 90 degrees. The air is heavier than it should be.

And yet, there's the unmistakeable feel of autumn in the air. It's hard to describe but it's just a change in the way the air feels. Even with the heat, there's an underlying crispness that creeps in just a little. It's the smell of changing seasons. With the long, hot, dry summer, the trees are already surrendering their leaves and the first leaf fires have already burned. When I drove to my parents, the corn harvest was in full swing. The fields are full of farmers driving their harvesters through the rows of corn, reducing the people-high stalks to nubs of hollowed yellowness. The rogue leaves from the corn, along with the dust, fly through the air so that when a gust of wind blows, for a moment, the dust cloud becomes an imposing, alien substance, floating in the air.

The fall festivals are starting, along with the corn mazes. Home gardeners are advertising pumpkins on roadside signs instead of corn and strawberries as they were a few weeks ago. Everywhere, the perky bright shades of summer have been replaced by the oranges and browns that symbolize fall. Decorative strings of silk autumn leaves wind their way around gateposts and porch posts and scarecrows sit on hay bales staring out at passersby.

In the stores, the produce section has stopped being full of summer squash- the green zucchini and yellow squashes- and are starting to sell butternut squash, acorn squash and spaghetti squash- the squashes of the autumn seasons.

Then there are the apples. Nowadays, there's always apples to be had in stores but this is the time of year to really buy apples. These are the apples that have been recently picked, not kept in storage because they're out of season. There are so many kinds of apples to choose from. Then there's the apple cider that goes along with the fruit.

The stores are full of Halloween candy already. Some brave stores already have neighbouring aisles filled with the reds and greens of Christmas but still, the oranges and blacks of Halloween are the most prevalent. The enormous bags of trick or treat candy tempt those with a sweet tooth and the zombies, vampires, witches and spiders that universally symbolize Halloween are everywhere.

In short, Autumn is almost here. By the calendar, it arrives on the 22nd but on all accounts, it really seems to be here already. It's waiting in the wings, letting summer finish out but its influence is already all around, whether or not the calendar agrees.

For my part, I can't wait to break out my light sweaters, to put on my boots again instead of sandals. I can't wait to have to make a decision about whether it;s cool enough to need a jacket or not.

Most of all, I can't wait until its crisp enough to sit outside on an autumn night with a mug of hot pumpkin tea in my hand, smelling the smells of the season and knowing that this side of the world is winding down, ready to slow down for the colder days.

I love autumn.

Happy Tuesday!

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