It seems to me that, unlike the other seasons, Autumn (or Fall if you prefer) is a bittersweet season – one in which pleasantness is mixed with an overtone of an increasingly bleak future. Spring is invariably a season of new beginnings, a time of renewal, a period of reawakening when we celebrate the end of Winter.
Summer is the season of lazy warm days, outdoor activities, fresh fruits and vegetables, beautiful flowers, and look and smell of new-mown grass – a time when we can look at soft white clouds floating in a beautiful blue sky. Winter is when we don warm coats, put on hats and scarves, and valiantly brave the snow and wind when we venture out.
It’s also the time we celebrate joy-filled holidays, get the fireplace glowing with a nice blaze, and settle down with a good book while looking out the window at the snow-covered landscape. Oh, yes, the other seasons can easily be characterized – but Autumn is a season of dramatic contrasts.
The entry of Autumn dovetails so neatly with Summer that the transition is almost unnoticed. We still have warm days with plentiful sunshine; our flowers are mostly still colorful; the patio grill is available for cookouts; and the lawn continues to require mowing. Nope, to the casual observer there’s not much difference between the end of Summer and the entry of Autumn.
From what I understand, many, if not most, folks consider Autumn their favorite season – particularly during the first month or so. Summer’s high temperatures and high humidity have abated resulting in warm days and cool, comfortable nights. With no need for air conditioning or heating we can enjoy weather lotsa people consider just about perfect. Weekends are full of football games and soccer matches abound. Golfers take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy this nearly-ideal time on the links, and, walkers and bikers are out in droves. Oh, yes – it’s a truly great time for outdoor sports.
Early Autumn is a very colorful season with most summer flowers still showing their beauty and Fall flowers such as Mums emerging to grace the landscape. In addition, various non-flowering shrubs and bushes – such the one in the front yard of our across-the-street neighbor – change from dark green to vivid scarlet this time of year thus adding to the splendor of the season. Trees dominate the scene as their leaves turn into a riot of gold and red hues. You know, we still take drives along country lanes to enjoy this magnificent artistry of nature.
There are subtle changes, however, that kinda creep in as the days slowly get shorter. For example, during the Summer when I go for my start-of-the-day swim I drive in daylight but this gradually changes until I find myself driving in the dark. Our vegetable gardens slow production in reaction to shortened daylight hours and cool nights and eventually cease entirely. Some of our summer flowers begin to get “leggy” and, despite our best efforts, slowly wither and die. And so in the midst of this enjoyable time we see signs of what is to come.
As the days continue to shorten and the temperatures to fall, the results become more evident. Wind and rain strip the trees of their gorgeous finery leaving bare limbs starkly showing against the leaden sky as the now-brown leaves cover the ground waiting to be removed. The tomato cages, stakes, and supports for beans, cucumbers, and peppers are removed, cleansed, and carefully stored.
The frost-killed, now-dead vegetable and flower gardens are cleared and the residue discarded. Yep, Autumn surely is a bittersweet season – starting as a pleasant, very enjoyable time and ending with bone-chilling wind, snow flurries, and what appears to be a permanent gray cloud cover.
Kinda sounds like Autumn is a real loser, doesn’t it? Quite to the contrary Autumn provides a natural and rather graceful transition from Summer to Winter – and Winter is a very important part of Nature’s scheme of things, but that subject is for another time. Autumn also provides us with three great holidays: Halloween, when children of all ages have fun dressing up in costumes; Veterans Day, when we honor our military veterans for keeping this country safe from those who would harm us; and, Thanksgiving when we give thanks for the profusion of blessings this country has received. Not a bad trio, right?
You know even though Autumn may be characterized as a bittersweet season that’s okay. We need a bit of spice in our lives and Autumn surely does provide that. At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor is a Greene County News columnist and area resident. Contact Bill at at firstname.lastname@example.org.