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Spring Forward to Fall
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Autumn finally arrived a few days ago, heralded by a gusty wind that knocked dying leaves from the trees and drove them horizontally through the air, making them soar and dive like flocks of yellow birds before they settled onto the ground. Then the rains came. Two inches at least. After that, when the day before temperatures had been in the upper eighties, it turned cold.

I have never much cared for autumn. I don't like the cold. My fingers go numb in air conditioned rooms. It's what comes of being nothing but skin and bones. That and Raynaud's Syndrome. Unfortunately, autumn's chill is only a prelude to the bitter cold of winter. To frozen water pipes and the endless groan of the space heater. Where we live, out in the country, winter also means snow and icy roads and weeks of being unable to get the car out. At some point we will subsist on instant macaroni and cheese and the remaining tins of soup. Shall we have celery or tomato today?

If autumn were not constantly reminding me of the winter to come I would enjoy it more. For one thing, the landscape looks its best. The foliage in our part of the northeast is so spectacular that when I see the colors in photographs and paintings they strike me as garish and unreal. There is a more somber beauty once the leaves are gone and the forms of both trees and mountains stand revealed.

Dealing with fallen leaves isn't much of a chore these days. Rather than raking them off the rocky lawn and into the surrounding woods I simply chop them up with the mower. When I was growing up everyone hauled them out to the curb to burn. The street became a channel between smoldering fires. Here and there ashes cartwheeled upwards and orange sparks glinted out of the smoke. You could taste the smoke in the crisp air.

As the leaves were raked into huge piles, before they were hauled off on paint-spotted canvasses to meet their fiery fate, we kids would leap into them, oblivious to the risk of injury from stray sticks. We sat in the leaves and poured handfuls over ourselves. We burrowed into the piles, buried each other, reveling in the dry, earthy smell. They were another element in which to immerse ourselves, neither air, nor earth, nor water.

It was in the autumn, after the frost had off finished the garden and even the rutabagas had been harvested, that my grandfather built a hut out of corn shocks. There we would sit, inhaling the heady odor of the pine needles on the floor, watching our breath hang in the dim air, shivering but out of the wind. We would venture out to explore the frozen garden rows. Amid blackened and withered leaves we found vegetables that had successfully hidden from the harvesters -- a monstrous summer squash on which some creature had gnawed or a bloated cucumber rendered white and translucent from the cold. At the edge of the field beyond the garden we might discover a blackened, all but petrified baseball we had lost in the weeds during the summer.

Autumn is also the time for Halloween, the year's best holiday. When I was allowed to prowl the streets in disguise demanding candy the cold didn't seem quite so bad. I did have to warm my hands up before I could unwrap my Tootsie Rolls.

So there are good aspects to autumn and some good memories associated with it. It has been so many years since autumn meant I was back in school I hardly ever have nightmares about that any more. I think I could really warm up to autumn if only it were followed by spring rather than winter. I like spring, even if it does hint at the looming oppressive heat of summer.

How about if autumn was followed by spring, which was followed by autumn? A year with only those two seasons. That would be perfect.

[This entry is my contribution to the new issue of The Orphan Scrivener. Check it out to read Mary's recollection of a motorbike ride in the rain and all the news.]

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