Friday, October 16, 2009

Summer is filled with the scent of cut grass and rich soil. Its that feeling of the heavy, humid air so vibrant, charged with activity that makes us yearn for this time when nature sleeps. On a still day as the sun beams down, I swear I could hear the Photosynthesis taking place. Plants producing energy and oxygen; a chemical process that gives life to our summer!

The sun is now shifting its focus to the southern hemisphere. In Australia, southern Africa and South America, spring has begun For the rest of the world, its autumn....then winter....and snow!

The autumnal equinox--that imaginary point in time when the sun is directly over the equator--is here and gone.

Now, we transition from summer warmth to a cool and damp stillness. The freshly cut grass aroma begins to waine and the earthen smell of yellow and orange leaves takes over as they reach maturity. Summer warmth seeps away replaced by the calmness of cool, damp and still evenings as the the initial stage of autumn commences with the first leaves quickly changing color, falling to the ground by mid-September. The collective sound of children running around fades to a distant few. Presumably most are inside doing homework--most likely playing video games--as the sun hastily exits below the horizon even quicker then the day before.

Slowly, the tree-line becomes more transparent. Distant light from an unknown source now makes its way all the way through the once thick underbrush to our eyes. The thick blanket of deciduous trees and shrubs is now a thinned out shadow of its former self. Each day, a new element of mother nature's woods becomes visible again after being secluded from the outside world. The irony is dramatic. We experience the vibrant state of nature, full of heat and light outside of the woods. Yet nature's fruits produce a green blanket creating a dark, isolated world only to be revived once the blanket dies away.

The garden is already wilted and gone. The rhubarb has shrunk and withered back to its subterranean sanctuary.

The grass is losing green luster.

I continue to "voice" my disdain toward earth's measly yet potent season-driving twenty-three and a half degree tilt by wearing shorts. Its forty outside and I am wearing shorts. I take the dog out at 6:30 A.M. A heavy frost blankets the deck. The thermometer reads 28. I'm still wearing shorts. You wait. The first hard snow and my choice of attire will still buck the trend. Call it my "obscene gesture" expressed in a code only to be decrypted by mother nature. Maybe she will get the idea...Maybe she can't decrypt it....I don't think she is listening.....I don't think she cares.

Yet at the same time, the changes autumn offers are a refreshing substitute; cleansing in a weird way. As nature prepares for its hibernation, the shorter days and cooler nights seem to have a rejuvenative property. The summer fire still smolders in our minds even after the autumnal equinox. Although my grilling days will continue as they always do when the cold air sets in, a hearty bowl of soup or chilly sounds surprising good right about now. The apple picking, the bright colors, jumping into leaf piles and the distant smell of bond fires rekindles the euphoria albeit under the guise of autumn. You can't help but breathe the cool air in a little deeper, open your eyes a little wider and smile.

The resurgence is felt on the bumpy hayrides as kids drape themselves over the side; their smiles frozen from ear to ear as mom and dad guide them through the sensory experience. One kid comments on the odor emanating from the horses in front. Laughter ensues as the wind shifts wafting the odor over everyone. Laughter continues. Dad laughs. Mom corrects Dad and then succumbs to the laughter herself. As we turn the corner, the wind shifts and alas, the olfactory onslaught is over.

A cup of warm apple cider warms the palette and the hands as a push of cool air knifes through our bodies amid the anemic sunshine. The chill is bone numbing and quick. Sunshine overtakes the wind, we warm up then the wind starts again. We all recover only to go through it again...and again...and again. At the same moment almost by Ultimate design, every one's expression screams the same thought. "This only the beginning of what is to come in the weeks and months ahead." Not one person dare say it. Yet everyone knows that everyone is thinking the same thought. Its the only awkward moment of the day.

For unknown reasons, someone wants ice cream--no doubt trying to hang onto the last remaining footprint of summer. Either that or they are really, really, really jonesing for some frozen desert. Someone makes fun of the request, then another and another. Eventually, everyone gets an ice cream cone quickly forgetting the bone numbing chill that seemed so paralyzing minutes before.

For all its changes, autumn is still my favorite season. I enjoy all of it.

The fleeting warmth, albeit brief. The chill, strong and still maturing. The colors, dirty yet vibrant.
The smells, fulfilling and sweet.
The kids, energetic and full of life.

To me, this is autumn.