02 October 2013

Autumn strolls

I am much more inclined to take long walks in the Spring and Autumn than in the Summer.  The sun isn't set so high in the sky in the transitional seasons. Rather, it hangs off to the side slightly, its warmth and light a comfort after winter's chill or summer's intense humidity.

In Spring and Autumn, the landscape seems less peopled. (One reason why I enjoy it a bit more, surely!) And although there is much color to discover and many things to notice, it takes a more patient pace and unhurried eye to seek out the changes.

There is a marvelous awakening that comes with spring, a sloughing off of winter's pall and venturing outdoors to greet the apple green that appears slowly over a period of weeks until the entire earth looks new again. In March there are the first buds pushing through the soil, their soft fronds seeming like an illusion and easily missed. There is the random clutch of colorful tulips in amidst dried leaves where weeks earlier there was only the dirty remnants of snow. There are fecund buds along branches that seemed like withered near-dead hands throughout the short winter days. There is the promise of unlimited green and soft pinks and brilliant yellows and rich lavenders as one by one the garden residents lift their heads and spread their stems to the sun and slip back into their finery.

Certainly there is always something (or someone) to see on a summer stroll—beautiful gardens, canopy-like trees, rainbow-like prisms as sunlight bounces off the spray from a garden sprinkler, people working on their homes or in their gardens. And there is always a sadness that accompanies summer's end... the packing up of picnic gear, the putting away of garden chairs, replacing voile skirts and straw hats with cotton socks and sweaters, and the hard decisions that come of leaving begonias, coleus and other annuals to their wintry fate.

But this melancholy is balanced by a wonderful nesting instinct that takes over as shawls are brought from cupboards and placed over chair backs, and the oven comes alive again with baking, and firewood is readied by the back doorway, and the afternoon sun is filtered through a golden screen of yellowing maple leaves, embracing each north-facing room with a glimmering warmth.

In October, where once there was a soft green canopy there is now a russet and gold veil overhead, and the rustle it makes in the breeze is more papery.  Brown seedheads and persimmon-like hips appear where Cone Flowers or Roses once bloomed.  Grey and tan sprays of skeletal fronds replace the fleshy green ferns that once nodded in the summer heat.  Houses seem less protected as trees drop their leaves and their verdent canopies thin out overhead.  The crackle underfoot of acorns marks my journey beneath tall Oaks, while the Sycamore trees litter the pavement with bark, like snakes shedding their skin.

And I, too, shed the raiments of summer.... trading sandals for heavier walking boots, wearing felt hats, wrapping scarves around my throat against the occasional morning chill, swapping out cotton dresses for denim pinafores or flannel skirts.

"SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
  Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun."

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