season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

First touches of autumn in Huntington, VT

On the way home last week I noticed the first dry brushstrokes of color in the maple trees on my road. (I can hear the “oh NO!” rising even as I write this. But why? It’s natural! And none too soon, if we’re honest with ourselves – we’ve had highs topping 90 since the first weekend in May. It’s time.)

Sure as the calendar said August, there it was.

Right now I’m listening to Autumn Serenade, from Kurt Elling’s outstanding Dedicated to You release from last year: “Let the years come and go, I’ll still feel the glow that time can not fade…when I hear that lovely autumn serenade…”

I listen to this album year-round but tonight it seems especially significant as I think about the irrationally beautiful, fiercely change-minded season about to unfold and take us with it in the spinout of another year. A little later on this same recording, we find My One and Only Love: “When shadows fall and shed their mystic charms…”

I’ve always loved autumn and winter. There was a wide sycamore tree in the yard at the corner of the street where I grew up. It belonged to the Brannens and then the Chavez family, who moved in around 1976. In an update of the existing 1960s pink and brown color scheme, they painted the small bungalow house with a much more contemporary earthy palette of brown and ochre. I remember crunching past the sprawling tree in the Chavez’a front yard on the way to and from school in the fall, kicking my way through wildly colored paper leaves that were as big as the Pee-chee I carried . (Remember Pee-chees?) And the leaves smelled good, warm and woody. As close as a city kid was likely to get to nature.

The fuzzy golden balls that clung to the barren autumn branches of the neighbbor’s sycamore made me sneeze, with their thick profusion of furry seeds. You could pick them bald, and the center revealed a hard, brown, much smaller spherical core dangling from the stem as some kind of  a useless ugly organic omen of the Christmas ornaments in the season yet to come.

Best of all were the frosty mornings of late October. They quickly neutralized the brilliant splashes of color in the leaves to the subdued, dull resolve of November – but the patient observer (or school-bound little girl) could get up early enough to see the contours of the curled, fallen leaves laced with a delicate icy stitchery that outlined every vein and glowed in the first morning light. Magical.

Autumn’s coming. Even if the first changes I’m seeing now are anomalies, the real thing isn’t that far off. Let’s enjoy it for all it’s worth. And remember those opening lines from Autumn Serenade: “Thru the trees comes autumn with her serenade, melodies the sweetest music ever played…”

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