I’m always amazed how quickly things change when the official first day of fall arrives. The equinox (the date when day and night are of equal length) only happens twice a year, spring and fall. Here in the northern hemisphere, the spring equinox signals we’re heading toward the long days of summer, culminating in Midsummer, or the summer solstice. The fall equinox means the shorter days and longer nights are accelerating toward winter, peaking at the winter solstice, or the shortest day. Then the days slowly get longer again. The cycle is as old as the earth itself, I suppose.
Fall is a melancholy time of year, but to me it’s the most beautiful. I love it that summer goes away in a burst of bright colors before the bleakness of winter. The leaves haven’t started changing yet where I live, but the weather is slowly cooling, and it’s harder to get up before 7 a.m. when the sun rises.
As a child I remember looking forward to Halloween and Thanksgiving. I didn’t look forward so much to standing out in the dark, waiting for the school bus in the morning! I remember seeing the sun come up from a school bus window as the bus wound its way through the hills of the countryside, mist rising from the hollows.
And here in Sleepy Hollow Country, Halloween has turned into a big celebration! I’m still stunned to see busloads of tourists coming down Route 9.
Let’s enjoy the brilliance of fall. Winter comes soon enough.
One of the main reasons I bought my condo was its view of the Hudson River and the Tappan Zee Bridge. I’ve watched the river traffic for years now. Summer evenings mean sailboats gliding from one side to the other. Winter mornings feature the Coast Guard cutter going upriver to look for ice, and on one memorable occasion an ice-cutting ship.
In the fall the view is framed by orange and yellow maple trees. In the spring it’s a vista of green buds which eventually open up to block part of the view. Construction of the new luxury townhouses and condos by the riverbank has taken off the bottom of the view. Last October I watched Superstorm Sandy drive the Hudson over its banks as the water swelled up.
Now my view is changing again, due to construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge. Barges, tugboats and dredges are moving into position. I understand one of the largest cranes in the world is on its way through the Panama Canal to help with the construction.
This will go on for five years, I’m told. I’m not sure how crowded the river will be before they are done. There has already been a terrible accident when a powerboat hit one of the construction barges at night. Since then the barges are lighted more prominently, and I think I heard that river patrols have been stepped up.
I hope the sailboats and pleasure boats will still be able to cruise above and below the construction. So far the noise has not been bad on my side. There will be a certain fascination in seeing this massive structure rise and the old bridge be taken down. But I already miss the days when sailboats and the occasional barge were the only vessels disturbing the peace of that grey water.
I was grateful today that it wasn’t one of those blue-sky September days, but muggy and cloudy. Every September when the sky is that clear, unclouded blue I remember how lovely it was on 9/11 in 2001, and how that day fell apart into terror and dread.
It’s amazing to me how New York City has come back and how people have carried on with their lives. New Yorkers (and New Jerseyites, for many of them were killed that day) are tough.
The reading of the names still makes me cry, and the footage of the attacks is still horrifying. But every day people commute to the city to work, and millions of others live there. The Freedom Tower looms over lower Manhattan. Downtown businesses came back. Children have been born who will have no personal memory of what happened. Tourists come and go in their hordes. At least now they have a memorial to look at instead of a gaping hole.
“Never forget” is the motto you see at many fire stations and police stations, throughout the tri-state area, where first responders poured into the city to help the New York City forces. But I wonder, will the day come when the pain is not remembered? At least, will the day come when a blue September sky doesn’t make us uneasy?
The start of the school year always feels like the beginning of a new year to me, even though it’s been many years since I boarded that school bus or headed off to college. September is a time of reflection and remembering as autumn moves in and summer dissolves like the early morning mists. But there’s still the hope that it’s not too late to plot a new course, try something new, find a better way to go forward.
As a small child in the South, the weather was still punishingly hot when we started school in August, and schools were not air-conditioned. My main concern then was school clothes. Girls were not allowed to wear pants (can you imagine?) so we wore “dark cotton” dresses, usually plaids in fall colors but made of cotton so we weren’t too hot. School supplies involved having the correct pencils, tablets and crayons so you could carry out your assigned tasks. No computers, book bags or backpacks!
Elementary school was both a delight and a punishment to me. I never fit in from the very beginning because I had learned to read, write and do basic math at home, so I arrived in first grade ready for second grade. My mother was adamant that the school should not make me skip a grade because I was small, shy and among the youngest in the class. So for the first three years of elementary school I sat in the back of the class and did my own work for the next grade, only joining the rest for art, music, phys ed and math. I never really felt like part of the group, even in later years when I was “tracked in” and joined the rest of the class.
But I learned. I made friends, I got along, I kept working to learn new things and do better. I wanted to make my parents proud, and I wanted a college scholarship. All those things came true, and I am grateful. This was the foundation of the life I’ve had since then.
At this point in my life back-to-school just marks the end of summer. But it still feels like a time of possibilities and new plans. Here’s to the new year: It’s never too late to learn and grow. My wish for us all is health, prosperity and curiosity!