I grew up in South Texas, which basically has two seasons: “knocking on the gates of hell” (where you risk 3rd degree burns just by simply going barefoot) from about March to October and “I can wear jeans without suffering heatstroke,” frequently called “winter” by the rest of the country. Occasionally, a third season makes a brief appearance when the region receives five years worth of average rainfall in five hours and the interstates turn into swimming holes.
I never really understood seasons as a kid. Fall was marked by the start of the school year and the appearance of jack-o-lanterns (which usually looked as though they needed sunsreen and a fan) rather than by any real drop in temperature. Instead of arriving on the wind in a series of brisk cold fronts, the temperatures slowly seemed to moderate. The lows became a little lower and the highs seemed to struggle to reach their apex before the sun set. Winter was defined by the addition of Christmas lights and luminarios to the fronts of the houses, projecting a cozy ambiance even when you’re in shorts. The deciduous trees held stubbornly to their leaves until spring, when the new growth pushed off the old. Spring, a sign of renewal and life in much of the world, is the season of caterpillars and tree dropping in South Texas. At least until the temperatures grow too hot again for the trees to even bother with such things as leaves.
There were benefits to growing up without seasons – you could camp during fall and winter breaks, a winter coat was an indulgence rather than a necessity, and we used to have “heat days” off school when it was too hot for the busses to run. Nonetheless, there is something to be said for nature’s reminders of the inevitability of cycles and the impermanence of life.
I am now on my fifteenth autumn in Atlanta. And today marks the first day where fall is carried on the breath of the wind through the trees. I celebrated this morning with pumpkin pancakes and a pair of new running shoes.
There’s a slowing, a sense of turning inward, that accompanies the fall. I associate it with reading and cooking and hiking and writing by an open window. I’ve always felt a rebirth in the fall, perhaps because it marks the end of the intense heat and humidity that often terrorizes Atlanta towards the end of the summer. It’s literally a breath of fresh air.
I have fallen in love with the full expression of each season found here. I enjoy the sense of inner nurturing and scaling back in the autumn, the gatherings around the hearth in the winter, the strength of life in the spring and the pure exuberance of the summer. Just as one tires, the next moves in.
I love the reminder that change is inevitable and that every transformation has its own beauty.
And I also appreciate the fact that I can wear jeans in September without succumbing to heatstroke:)
Happy fall, y’all!