Oh, it is so fine! Such a huge blessing to some of us who are not enamored with the heat, the sticky, muggy, closeness of summer. It’s not that I do not love summer. I still do, at least abstractly. It just seems like this “grown-up” gig has somehow impinged on my old gleeful childhood habit of celebrating by going swimming, diving, fishing or otherwise playing in the water every day of summer. Nowadays, summer seems to mock my inner child with its ridiculous heat and work schedule.
But these early fall days are so tangibly different, like a shift in the direction of the breeze that somehow lost its oppressive oven breath, and now carries a whiff of coolness. Like a hint or two of color on the deep green leaves and grass. A waft of tannin in the air. A little promise, an intimation that summer’s dog days are numbered. Doors and windows can soon be opened, the freshness of the chill air coming in, quietly, instead of from a noisy air conditioner. These days are delightful!
They aren’t that different from midsummer, just without the teeth of the afternoon heat that seems to last just a couple hours too long. The sweet relief of the High Plains cool that starts a little earlier in the afternoon, that seems to say, “There is always a good rest in store for you here at night.” Friends that come to visit us don’t take seriously our suggestions to bring a sweater or jacket for nighttime use during the early autumn. “It’s not like winter at night this time of year, but it certainly isn’t like summer, either!” we always tell them.
These are the days when you look forward to hearing the sound of kids playing in piles of dry leaves, and raking up locust tree “beans” by the pound, wondering again how you can tell the difference between “fruitless” and the other BEFORE you plant.
When the squirrels seem a bit more territorial, and to have a bit of added urgency to their nut-gathering activities, scurrying around with an extra go-gear. When the foxes and skunks seem to venture a little further into town in their foraging, and you are more likely to see big birds, maybe even a great horned owl in town for a short visit. When the fighter squadrons of geese and ducks start their practice runs in “V” formation before the real deal migration starts.
This is the time of year to get ready for campfires, marshmallows and s’mores, tailgate parties and the Friday night lights of Texas high school and college football. Marching bands with rows of silver and brass horns singing victory songs and kids that have worked all summer to march or play ball with their rosy cheeks and earnest expressions, most of them having the time of their lives and making lifelong friendships.
These are the days when so many of us head to the New Mexico and Colorado mountains. Something up there seems to call for us in the autumn. For me, at least one of those things is the color. I remember the first time I was aware, as a very young kid, of the differences in the colors. It was in the autumn. I always liked red the best, and even though it seems foolish to some people, even some artists, to ask, “what’s your favorite color?” I have no problem with the question.
Up high in the mountains, and some lowland spots back east, autumn gives us magic maple trees that display the most dazzling reds I have ever known. These places sing to my heart. That statement may not be mere poetry. I have a guitar that is made from one of those trees. I have played it in front of thousands of people. It is my way of keeping that maple tree, the color of fall, and other beautiful things alive.
These are the days when we stop and marvel at the passage of time, making the same remarks as always, like, “I can’t believe summer is already gone” or, “Wow! We are halfway through the year; it seems like the holidays were just last week!” I have noticed that my sainted mother was right about everything she ever told me, including the fact that “time seems to somehow pick up momentum as you get older.” It was then a nonsensical statement to my young ears, but as I grew, so did her wisdom.
Autumn signals a time of the harvest, of color, and approaching winter, when the good earth rests and replenishes from the toil and heat of summer, the frenzied activity of work and play. It is time to catch our breath. A time to take inventory, to reflect, to count blessings.
This has been a great summer, with rainfall and long days, but I so look forward to autumn!