Well Intended: Ready to savor autumn, not what follows
Published 6:01 am, Monday, September 15, 2014
Last winter's tenacity left me somewhat traumatized. The meteorologists called it the polar vortex and began naming storms as they do hurricanes. In Westport, we had more snow than I can ever recall and a remarkable scarcity of light. I bundled up and stayed indoors for a season that seemed like it would be eternal. When a clear day punctuated the dim weeks, I ran outside and unwrapped my scarf for a few minutes to absorb a bit of vitamin D and marvel at the ephemeral blue sky. And when the winter finally thawed and the blossoms of spring broke through the ice it felt like a personal blessing.
Summer makes you forget that there was ever a winter.
It has been an exceptionally beautiful summer. Our sweaters are packed away and forgotten. The coats are in the basement. The cracks in the patio are bursting with tiny weeds and blossoms and I have picked and consumed the warm season's berries and peaches, greens, herbs and vine-ripe tomatoes for months. Rain has come just often enough to keep the gardens watered and the lawns green. My laundry has been bleached by afternoon sunshine and I have opened the windows warm breezes and fresh air.
When Labor Day arrived, I felt a bit of sadness, but I attributed it to the children going back to school and the return of early morning bus pick-ups and the routine of afternoon homework. Perhaps I was just mourning the longer days, dusk was arriving sooner, abbreviating our opportunities for late dinners and evening walks.
And now the evenings are getting cool.
In a mix of avoidance and denial, I neglected to put away my sandals and summery skirts. I have failed to buy the kids long pants to wear back to school and have forgotten to remind them to take a sweatshirt when they leave the house on these chilly September mornings. Last winter's ferocity has inspired me to hold too tightly to summer.
The trees are not as verdant as they were, and leaves are edged with the slightest stroke of gold or crimson. The leaves on the tomato vine are curled and brown and the last tomatoes are ripening on the tangle of vines that were toppled by last weekend's storm. In the drugstores, the sunscreen that was replaced by the school supplies now holds bags of Halloween candy corn and shelves of spooky decorations. Chrysanthemums replace the spent geraniums on doorsteps.
Lately, when I make a purchase at the grocery store or coffee shop and remark to the clerks about the fine weather, they say that the Farmer's Almanac has predicted a cold winter, and I shudder. Our shared wariness is comforting and we look out the windows grateful for the bright blue sky and the puffy picture-book clouds.
The children remark on the caterpillars' thick fur and the full-tailed squirrels, childhood indicators of a long winter. And I am slicing watermelon and shucking fresh-picked corn, savoring the last of summer's harvest.
Autumn may be New England's finest season. The foliage draws turtle-necked tourists to marvel at our lovely foliage, to pick the fall apples and pumpkins and savor the crisp evenings. There are apple pies and trick-or-treating children dressed as cartoon characters and goblins. There will still be many pleasant days for hiking and walking outdoors and enjoying the low autumnal light. I can no longer pretend that it will stay warm forever. But I am not ready to find the winter boots yet either.
Krista Richards Mann is a Westport writer, and her "Well Intended" column appears every other Friday. She can be reached at email@example.com.