Our Hearts Are Warmed by Comforts of Autumn
Here we sit on the autumnal eve, looking at the year’s great expanse gone, and the upcoming sprint to the finish.
After the languorous pace of summer, these final four months feel like four weeks, as fast as they go. Wasn’t Labor Day just yesterday? And yet here we are with just a week left in September.
Pumpkins are coming in from the farms. The cornfields are dry and stubbled. In our neighborhoods, tree leaves possess that tired, darkish green, giving way to the first yellows of old age. The dogwoods positively look like they’re ready to surrender.
On the football field, our high schools are halfway through their seasons. In the school orchestra and dance studios, they’re learning their instruments and beginning those practices that will become, in short order, the holiday programs.
There, I said the “h” word. It’s surely not the first you’ve heard it this season. On the news the other day, the TV anchors spoke of chain stores “gearing up” to hire tens of thousands for the holiday season. That’s funny, since most of those merchants are already in that holy-grail window of commercial success; those first end caps of Christmas displays have already been out a month.
For our family, autumn is the best time of year. We love everything about it — the events, the colors, weather’s turn.
Whereas spring and summer are noted merely with a seasonal wreath on the door, autumn gets the full decorating treatment. My wife has a collectible Halloween-themed village that she sets up this time of year. It gets a little more dinged up every year. This time around, a dab of glue was needed to reattach a witch’s head here, a scarecrow there.
When we lived in Greensboro, by now I would have strung the icicle lights on the house. Strands of green, purple and orange along the eaves, dangly webs and fuzzy spiders that would pop down on a string when you clapped loudly festooned our front porch. And it wasn’t just one pumpkin upon the doorstep. There’d be two or three, and mums in the planters.
Indeed, fall is a special time for Leslie and me. We began dating in fall. We got engaged on a crisp October evening. Our first dog together came in October. We named her Chesapeake Autumn. Our daughter’s middle name (we couldn’t concur on just one) is Autumn Grace. We are fallen acorns when it comes to this time of year.
We do not, however, welcome the season’s pell-mell pacing. Every year, it feels like another remake of “The Fast and the Furious.” Saturday mornings are almost always given to the soccer field. Then there is the usual bumper crop of fall festivals, hayrides, Octoberfests, harvest celebrations, church functions, school activities. They rush around us like turkey oak leaves scattered by a gust of wind. It is as though all that energy conserved during summer’s blazing days has found its release channel and come pouring out.
Although the calendar says we have fall until Dec. 21, we don’t. The unfortunate reality is that fall ends on Thanksgiving. When the final Tupperware burps are closed with the meal’s leftovers, the madness of pre-Christmas is upon us. Fall is robbed of its final five weeks.
Sadly, the commercial crush of Christmas is eating further into fall’s time on stage. I remember a time when there was a lead-in to Thanksgiving, time still for uncarved pumpkins and hay bales, hand-print turkeys and cut-out pilgrim hats colored with black crayons, construction paper Indian headdresses and maple leaves etched into thin copper sheets.
I have tried mightily these last few years to slow myself down and make conscious efforts to enjoy fall and those seasonal rituals: adding blankets to beds, savoring the rich color of changing leaves, the pumpkin-spiced lattes, the children’s excitement — and ever-changing costume decisions — of Halloween. This year, we can add on top of all that the chance to experience these things in a new community.
On this autumn’s eve, I bid farewell to summer, fast to arrive, slow to leave. I throw open my arms — and windows — to fall’s return and invite it to stay awhile. All I need now is a crisp Carolina apple, a warm throw and an awesome trick-or-treat neighborhood.
John Nagy is editor of The Pilot. Contact him at (910) 93-2507 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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