I still think of fall the way it was when I grew up in the South. The weather grew gradually cooler, the leaves turned red and gold and brown, and slow, heavy rains washed them off the trees. By late November the leaves were gone, the branches “bare ruined choirs” as the poem says, and we settled in for the chill of winter. I don’t recall violent storms or tornados once we were past the summer.
Living closer to the ocean has taught me about hurricanes and tropical storms. I always pictured them as a phenomenon of Florida or the Gulf Coast. Picture Bogie and Bacall in “Key Largo” (a really great movie to watch during hurricane season.) Until recent years I never realized those storms could do damage not only at the shore, but several miles inland. They can even carry their violence and damage for hundreds of miles from the ocean. Who knew? I saw it last year outside my window, watching the Hudson River overflow its banks during Superstorm Sandy.
So now the fall brings with it a shiver of unease. I hadn’t really thought about it until some friends were discussing the date of the village Halloween parade for this year and how it’s been cancelled for the last two years, due to a snowstorm (yes!) and then Sandy last year. Another friend remarked about the storm that roared through yesterday, “Trees are not our friends.”
But today is a placid, blue-sky autumn day. No signs of clouds or winds or witches on broomsticks blown past the window. A perfect day to sky-write, “Surrender, Dorothy.”
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.