Fall often comes as a comma in this neck of the woods; some years you hardly draw breath before it moves on. I feel almost resentful when summer burns late into October, or an early freeze strips the last of the leaves from the trees and shudders snow onto naked pumpkins lying hopeful in the fields. At the same time, it is the very brevity of the season that makes my pleasure in it so exquisite. I feel its colors. I think in its superlatives.
Summer’s heavy warmth withdraws, and nighttime frost-falls kindle the fires of burning bush to a crackling scarlet. Flamboyant maples and sumac flout the monochromatic schemes of evergreens and shout their calliope colors into the wind. A few ragged, yellow coins still flutter from the branch tips of the birch at the front of the house, a cushion of gold collects on my garden bench, a carpet of gold covers the lawn, and I feel as rich as a king in the Midas-touch of autumn.
I walk out for a jacket and scarf stroll at sunset, the light-fingered winds twitching at anything that isn’t tied down or buttoned up. A pale half-moon creeps across the sky with one, wide eye peeking out at me from behind earth’s shadow. Down the street a young boy throws handfuls of leaves over his head, again and again, watching them drift to the ground like ash. There is joy in his face. Long ago, I used to do the same, so did my girls; it’s a legacy of childhood like making snow angels in winter and sucking nectar from clover in summer. Just as I round the bend on the last stretch toward home, the embered sun dips below the world’s rim, a glow the color of autumn still smoldering in the sky. I hear a flock of geese crossing low on the horizon, trumpeting their lament to the dying light.
These are hot chocolate days punctuated by nutmeg and cinnamon moments. In the chill, early morning, I stand in a stream of amber sunlight slanting through the kitchen window and feel it pour over me like maple syrup. Soon, warmth will become a crop to harvest, something to bake into stews, pies and bread, or tend in the grate, or pull up to my chin at night.
I soak it all in—the color, spice and warmth—garner its gifts, wrap it close like a cloak, drink up its dregs to the very last drop—and then step into winter…