It seems to me that we are most fortunate hereabouts in having four distinct seasons. Oh, sure, I have sometimes thought living on one of those islands-of-always-summer would be nice – particularly in the depth of winter with the snow, ice, and bone-chilling winds we get. In the long run, however, I kinda think having the same weather forecast every day, interrupted only by an occasional hurricane or typhoon, would get to be a bit boring. We wouldn’t have the opportunity to look forward to the change of seasons we have here.
I suppose we all have our favorite time of year for our own reasons, but I think the one I prefer is early fall – from a little after Labor Day through Halloween. It’s when the shift of prevailing winds results in those hot, muggy days of the end of summer being pretty well displaced by drier, cooler air. We still have relatively warm days, but our evenings increasingly require a sweater.
This is also when nature reminds us of what is to come. My bean and tomato plants are done for the season although my peppers are producing very well – perhaps as a show of defiance to the change in weather. Some summer flowers are already gone and others are starting to droop a bit. Yep, time to consider cleaning out both the vegetable and flower beds and figuring out which flowers I will try to “winter over” in the house. For the past two years I have Geranium and Impatients plants that I have successfully dug up in the fall, repotted, “wintered over” and transplanted outside again in the spring. If I’m successful, this will make a third consecutive year we’ll have flowers inside all winter.
Perhaps the most obvious and enjoyable signal of the change of seasons at this time of year is the way the tree leaves and some bushes transform from green to various shades of color. Every year we look forward to the way our across-the-street neighbor’s front yard bush becomes a gorgeous red – a truly spectacular sight. Yep, tree-lined streets and highways sure can be beautiful this time of year as nature paints the landscape with an impressive display of color.
Each fall we try to take a few drives out in the rural areas of the county simply for the purpose of appreciating nature’s delightful exhibition of a multicolored countryside. We particularly enjoy those country lanes where the trees on each side of the road have grown together at the top to form a kind of canopy. Charleton Mill Road, a short lane which connects Wilberforce-Clifton Road and Route 42 in the vicinity of Wilberforce, features such a canopy as well as a beautiful, functional wooden covered bridge spanning a tree-lined creek.
This multicolored display doesn’t last very long, however, as the leaves turn brown and begin to fall – another harbinger of what’s to come. “Harbinger,” which means “forerunner, messenger, clue, indication,” is a neat word we don’t see much any more, but I think it fits here.) As a youngster I enjoyed walking through dry fallen leaves kinda shuffling my feet and kicking up little clusters that fell gently back to the ground.
Don’t know why, it was just pleasurable. Then, too, jumping into a pile of dry, raked up leaves always seemed like fun. Once again I don’t know why – it was just the thing to do. And you know what? I see kids doing these same things these days. Must be something kinda built into human nature.
One thing I truly enjoyed when I was younger was the smell of dry burning leaves — an odor so distinctive it’s unmatched by any other. Nowadays, however, rules and regulations in most locales prohibit burning leaves – which I think is a shame I suppose that’s desirable in reducing air pollution, but I still miss that characteristic aroma. It was part of what made the season memorable.
Well, that short-lived interval between the end of summer and the onset of the cold rain and strong winds which strips the trees of their finery is upon us. Time to get busy putting the patio furniture away, ordering firewood, planting fall bulbs, and all those other chores we do at this time of year. I’ve kinda gotten away from raking the leaves and mostly use my mower to mulch them where they lay – it’s supposed to be good for the lawn and is sure less strenuous than raking.
All in all, this is probably my preferred time of the year – and if somehow a few handfuls of dry leaves just happen to get into my charcoal grill as I’m doing my last steak-burning of the year or get mixed in with my fireplace kindling, well, stuff like that happens. At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at [email protected]