Thursday, September 4, 2008

10 Signs That Autumn Approaches...

"We are in for a spell of perfect weather now, every day luminous, every night brimmed with stars. Picnics at noon, supper by the applewood fire at night, a walk in the cool moonlight before bed." ~Gladys Taber

I love autumn, and I always have. It was fun, growing up, to buy new clothes and school supplies and then to ride the yellow bus to our little old country school, always the day after Labor Day. Our elementary school was a very charming, old building, and I remember loving the smooth shine of the newly waxed wood floors every fall. It was always exciting to meet my new teacher in my new classroom and to find the desk where I would sit all year. And then we settled in for the year, and I must admit that I hated school. :-)

But I adored the autumn routine of pretty falling leaves and wearing sweaters and colder evenings with a fire burning in our home. I think of my mom and her cheerfulness welcoming us back from school each day. And warm cookies and milk. I remember playing outside while wearing extra layers of clothing, running around in the crisp outdoor air til our cheeks stung and turned red. Neighborhood football games. I think of autumn poems and storybooks and decorating the house and drinking hot chocolate. And then the coastal rainstorms came, and nothing could have been cozier than being inside a warm house with my family and a fire blazing in the stove.

It's years later, and I still love fall. I think most people do, or so it seems. How about you?

And now, once again, signs of the season are gathering and taking shape:

1. It's September, and Labor Day has passed. Now I am allowed to say the word "autumn." And that's a happy thing because I like autumn-- in its place, that is. I don't like to rush the seasons along. Though I am jumping the gun on this one since it's not official til later in the month.

2. It was 20 degrees on Labor Day morning. Our first really deep frost. It's been more consistently cold, with the temperature gradually dropping lower and lower. There's definitely a crisp edge in the air. In the morning, our bare floors are colder, even on warm days. The temperature drops more quickly in the evening with the early setting of the sun, nights are consistently colder, and mornings don't heat up as quickly with the later daybreak. It's almost time for the first fire in our woodstove. This is the only source of heat for our home, and I like the warm, radiant heat of the fire.

3. We get a certain warm and pretty glow of light in the dining and kitchen area in fall. It's here. I do love it and wish the rooms were filled with it all year, but that would make it less special, wouldn't it? Each season has its special gifts to enjoy, just like life.

4. Susan Branch's Autumn book has found its way into my hands as it does every fall. Some people say Susan Branch is cloying, but I just love her zeal and her joy for living in the seasons. I'm not ready to use any of her ideas yet, but I enjoy the warmth and spirit of the book. Susan Branch has a desire to bring beauty and laughter and fun to each day, and why not?! The world is a serious place with a lot of problems, and we don't bury our heads in the sand, but we can choose how our days, our homes, our lives will be. Why not fill them with happy times and good things? Even when things are not perfect. Even when life is very, very difficult.

5. I'm in the mood for fall cleaning and winter preparation. We've got to get our winter wood supply set. I'll remove the screen door, which is cumbersome in the wind and snow of winter. I'll try to keep up with the cobwebs, go on the attack against the flies that appear each fall, wash windows, and do some fall cleaning. Outdoor furniture and the round red Weber grill will go in the barn.

6. I pulled out some of my vintage dishes with fall colors and patterns. I don't want to display them just yet, but I'm looking at them. And there will be my favorite reddish Cinderella pumpkins on the porch and in the house. And colorful fall leaves in tiny vases. And large pinecones and nuts. And I'll bring other pretty bits of fall nature indoors.

7. My summer taste for eating only fresh, light foods is passing. Soon we'll be eating more comforting things like apple crisps with creme fraiche, cheddar chowder, pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, fall harvest cake, sweet potato salad, braised red cabbage, white fish with roasted cherry tomatoes and butternut squash, blackberries, my once-a-year chicken pot pie with the cream cheese crust (one of Monty's favorites). And maybe, once again, we'll roast hot dogs and marshmallows for s'mores over the bonfire in our fire pit.

8. Some of the needles on the Ponderosa pines (the tree that is all around us) are beginning to turn rusty-colored. We haven't got a deciduous tree on our entire property, so there will be no leaves to rake, but the pines drop their long needles like crazy (not all of them, of course!), and I rake huge piles of them in the fall. Our large Ponderosa pine cones will be dropping (100's of them) from the trees soon, and I will be picking up wheelbarrow load after wheelbarrow load of them from the yard. I should sell them! I saw these very pinecones sold in a Martha magazine once for well over $1 each! :-)

9. Our beds already need warmer blankets. Time to pull out the heavy, colorful bed cover my daughter Michelle made and gave to me. I'll put away the light, summery white vintage one. The pretty cream-colored afghans made by my grandmother and Mike's mom have made their colder-season appearance in the living room once again.

10. Nature is changing. The birds are quieter. I saw a flock geese flying south, in formation, last month. The daily path of the sun from twilight to dusk moves steadily southward. Wild grasses in the fields and meadows around us are dry and thin. The flower beds are shutting down, with flowers either already past their prime or having frozen in our Labor Day hard frost. Soon, I'll be doing fall yard and garden clean-up in preparation for winter and spring.

So, autumn clearly approaches, but, still, we're enjoying our time outside on warm days, and I don't want to rush these lovely days along. The clothesline is still in use. The grass still needs watering. We ate dinner outside yesterday evening, and we'll continue to do this for as long as we can. As we sit at the table, we see clear, seasonal changes in the light and air. We need a light jacket or a cardigan as the sun goes down. It won't be long until life will move mostly indoors.