As I get older, I find I need more time to acclimate to the next season. That’s why I’ve designated the last few days of August as That Time to Acclimate to the Next Season, which in this case is Fall… or Autumn, the season with two names. In the long-ago time of Yore, the season was called Harvest because English-speaking people gathered the crops from the field and prepared to harden their hides for winter. Autumn was the word used by the people who did not gather crops and had a lot of leisure time to adopt the snootiest Latin words they could dig up. Meanwhile, the newly minted American barbarians looked at all those leaves falling from the trees that used to be around in the new world back then and said…Fall! Not only the leaves, but the trees themselves have complied, as we have insisted upon chopping down forests ever since.
Our immigrant ancestors had the pleasure of doing things their own way. Now we carry on their traditions by marking time through the year by the coming and going of sports. The summer/fall transition is the one I feel most keenly because baseball is the only sport I actually like. I know the end of summer is near when I look at my local team’s game schedule and see the last of the home games stretching over Labor Day weekend and the final innings taking place in far away Greenville. I sense a change is coming.
In this time of transition, our neighborhood children return to school. We cease taking vacations for a time and everything seems to be in a lull. We are waiting. This must be some sort of evolutionary pause we take to gear ourselves up for the rigors of the last months of the year with its onslaught of football watching, garden harvesting, pumpkin carving, vote casting, family gathering and freezing our asses off. So much goes on from September through December that I like to stop and enjoy this little interlude before it all begins. It’s like that quiet space between an inhalation and an exhalation—brief but necessary.
Temperatures remain in summer mode during this seasonal intermission. My husband and I scan the weather reports for any sign of relief from the heat. Our mornings have stayed steadily in the upper 60’s, with enough humidity to hydrate a marathon runner. The afternoons are too hot to enjoy being in the sun, so we are still hibernating in the coolness of our air-conditioned mountain casita in the afternoon. There’s a bit of sluggishness to our steps. In this heavy stillness, droopy and lazy, we find ourselves yearning for the time of post-season games and a contentious World Series week. That’s when I finally feel as if Fall has arrived.
Since moving to the mountains, we have steadily been learning new ways to enjoy Fall. Our Time to Acclimate to the Next Season will abruptly end on the morning when the temperature drops into the low 50s and we have to scramble around in the basement storage boxes for a sweater or light jacket. We’ll slap on our hiking boots, grab that outerwear and head for a local hiking spot. Even the dog seems to be more animated by our increased bustle if not by the invigorating number on the thermometer.
By late September, leaf reporting will begin. As a resident of southeast Texas for 42 years, I never had the fun of experiencing the full autumnal transition. There, all the leaves would fall in March, as the new ones started poking their heads skyward. Perhaps this is why I revel in the big doings of nature here in the mountains of western North Carolina. The end of baseball season heralds the coming of dropping temperatures and the crayoned hues of Mama Nature’s coloring book! One need only consult the numerous online guides to find the appropriate elevation for peak chromatic brilliance. Just thinking about driving up along the Blue Ridge Parkway, dizzying with its magnificent views, eases the doldrums of between-season lethargy.
I’m also looking forward to using our fire pit. And being invited to gather around other people’s fire pits. The fire pit is a thing here and gathering around them has been a highly-prized activity during the time of COVID. It’s outdoors! It’s cool enough to start a fire! It’s a natural gathering spot! I’ll own all of my exclamation marks until I find myself on the wrong side of the pit. The pit is an open wood-burning adventure as opposed to a fireplace with a flue or one of those glass and gas numbers that confuse me with its strangely uniform flames. In a reverse adage, where there’s fire, there’s smoke. We are conveniently nestled next to the Smoky Mountains. Smoke gets in your eyes per Eartha Kitt (in my favorite rendition). I’ve found that once I’ve chosen my seat ‘round the fire, the wind will shift out of my favor and much shuffling commences as I and my smoky-side brethren seek out positions of less painful inhalations. I call this maneuver the fire dance to make it seem more like an ancient cultural ritual, which it probably was but without the lawn chairs.
Fall is also the time to drink cider! You could make your own cider if you have the will to go apple picking. There are numerous apple orchards in our area that allow the general public to pay for the harvesting of that ever-popular Fall treat– another fun and fruitful experience for the whole family. Of course, we can buy apples from farm stands and with a bit of peeling, coring and fermentation, create our own brew. Then again, visiting a cidery, taking the tour and buying the finished product brings us just as much joy. In truth, we can get cider all year round, but I never want to actually drink it until the leaves start turning and I have spent an unreasonable amount of time trying to find my way out of a corn maze.
Moving from one season to the next brings continuity to our years. The sequence never changes. Now, on the cusp of harvest season, which we steadfastly call Fall, I am caught up in the transition away from our glorious summer here in the mountains. I have enjoyed the morning walks and hanging out with my friends in the shade of our precious trees. My family took a vacation together this summer, and this interlude between seasons has allowed me the time to savor those memories before all the activities of the next few months engage my body and spirit.
Soon baseball’s greatest team will have earned its place in the history books and we will adapt ourselves to the changes that come with flipping the pages of the calendar. I will be giddy with the anticipation of marathon hikes and early sunsets as we start to inch our way toward the coldest part of the year. But not just yet. I am content to rest a bit longer in the quiet moment of letting go of the old season before embracing the new. It will come soon enough and with it, thoughts of Winter. And I’d like to postpone the need to harden my hide against the snow and ice and hockey season for as long as possible. Have I told you about my summer vacation?
Just hanging out,