Ah autumn. Autumn is one of my favorite seasons. The heat of summer subsides, the windows are open again, and cool breezes invade the bedroom late into the night. It’s a season of layers and Sunday afternoons, of smoke and fleeing leaves, of purple sunsets and the trembling thought of frosts to come. I love autumn.
Fall is the summing up, the clearing away, the stowing of the freewheeling dreams and aspirations of summer in preparation for anticipated snows. Nobody starts fall with resolutions, nobody says “With the turning of the leaves I’m going to…” followed by a grand statement of renewed purpose or desire. It’s a time of potato soup and warm bread, a natural outgrowth of our agrarian past when that which couldn’t be preserved would be eaten and the heard thinned to make ready for the hard, long cold to come.
I remember clearing out my parents’ garden after the first frost, uprooting the tomato vines and raking the stalks into a heap with dry leaves from the sugar maple that grew in our back yard. Once the heap had been built, a crumpled page of newspaper would be buried in its heart and then the whole thing would be set alight. Clouds of smoke would rise toward the pale blue sky, drifting lazily over the suburbs and heading southward in pursuit of the summer on whose work the fire fed.
Ode to the West Wind
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The wingèd seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave,until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:
Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!