I grew up in a small New England town, south of Boston. Growing up, I didn’t give any deep thought to it, but the seasons played a major roll in my life. There is nothing mellow about the seasons back East. Each one: Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall packed its own punch and made itself felt, and our lives calibrated to those changes. As I got older and went off to college in Boston, Graduate school in Connecticut, got married, and had children, the seasons began to register more deeply with me. My life took on meaning that was intertwined with the changing seasons. I was married in the bitter cold of a Hartford winter. I was pregnant with Little Man in the blistering heat of a Michigan summer. But, as a child, the seasons were not tied to emotional things, they meant concrete changes in the rhythm of our lives.
Growing up, Winters were harsh. The Atlantic ocean helped spawn monster storms, where school was cancelled for weeks and the National Guard descended. In normal years, Winter heralded the arrival of bitter cold and months of snow and more snow that needed shoveling, a job shared by my brother and I. We ice skated on ponds in the woods behind our house. I would glide along the small streams that fed the pond until the branches and narrowing paths became too much to navigate and then I’d return to compete for space with the boys who were always playing hockey. We walked to school, pounding each other with snow balls and didn’t expect a ride.
Spring brough the melting of months of cold and snow. The uncovered smells that had been buried in white and then dirty white, burst forth and competed with the intensity of the lilacs, tulips, magnolias, hyacinth and daffodils. A palette of pastels ruled and the world seems fresh and new again. We were always happy to be able to play outside more and began to anticipate the end of school and the coming of Summer.
Summers growing up, were hot and hotter. Humidity pushed numbers up past the actual thermometer readings with heat indexes, and my friends and I made sure that we were on the beach every day possible. We grew up swimming in frigid waters and played on rocky beaches, and you couldn’t pay me to replay it anywhere else. Our mothers brought coolers down in the morning with bologna sandwiches, kool-aid for us, and grown up juice for them. We wore no sun screen and we left when the sun was low and our skin was red. As I got older, I hung out at the beach and drank blue slushies and ate bags of Doritos while I pretended to be cooler than I was. (Minot Beach, The beach where I played ^^)
(<— Bellingham field) It is hard to say which of the seasons held more meaning then, they all were special for the rituals and magic each brought. However, I have always been partial to Fall, and as I get older it seems to hold more and more meaning for me. In my youth, Fall heralded the start of new things: new school year, new friends, new cloths, change. The foliage in New England is a religious experience and people travel from all over the world to share in the wonder of the colors. Even as a kid it was hard to argue with the spectacle! The colors of Oaks, Ash, Birch and the awe inspiring Maples was enough to stop you in your tracks. Piles of leaves to jump in and colors raining down on us. It was beauty that could not be man made. Magic. The smell of rotting leaves and the natural world settling down for hibernation told us that Halloween was coming and that winter was not far away. The football games in high school and hanging out with our friends in the days cooled, was all part of my Fall experience.
Later, it was the season when my own children jumped in the piled leaves, planned their Halloween costumes and came home with runny noses. It was a season when we all played together and they were sweet and excited for the season. (Years ago, –> when they were sweet and played in the leaves. Only Middle Man looked up and saw mom with her camera.)
(<– One of my favorite places here) Living in the Pacific Northwest for ten years now, the seasons have become much less dramatic. Spring is most noticeable for the tulips that abound in Skagit Valley, twenty minutes from here. The days get longer and warmer, but there is no great melting and rebirth, as we rarely have snow here. The mountains are where we go for winter. We have a few weeks of cold, and then it’s gone and we have damp colder temperatures for months. There is little snow to contend with and the fact that things are still always blooming here is a constant reminder that we live in a mild climate.
Summer, well, don’t get any of us started after the summer of 2011 that never was. Summers here are brief and spectacular because the water and islands that surround us shimmer and shine and hypnotize us all in to believing it’s summer. It is rarely hot, no real humidity to speak of, and it is not the pounding season that I had for most of my life.
Fall. Fall is the the only season that really demands our attention here. It makes its presence known; it grabs us by the collar and says notice me! It is bold and brazen, and I love it for that.
As a red head, the season has always seemed to blanket me in the colors that I liked best: oranges and reds, vibrant yellows. Long before you could have your “colors done” I knew I was a Fall. Aside from blue, give me a red or orange any day! Fall is when the whole world reflects my preference and serves up a daily dose of splendor that still makes me stop to gaze. It seizes something old and special within me. I think of my childhood and miss my friends and family; I want to play in the leaves. Gone are the days when my children visited pumpkin patches and we decorated our house, but I stop to look at other houses and I am charmed to see little guys walking around in Princess, Dragon and Superhero costumes weeks before they are meant to wear them. I still buy that supersize bag of candy, for the 6 trick-or-treaters we will get; it’s Fall.
This year, I find myself watching the leaves fall and things in my yard die back, daylight growing shorter, shadows growing longer, and can’t help but think of my mom, knowing she is doing the same. Parts of her falling away as her body fades. My sister and I both brought her sun flowers, something she loves and we love, for their bright hopeful blooms. They come in the Fall but remind us of the waning summer months. My mother, who has always loved getting flowers, is quiet now and says little about the bouquets I leave. I am hoping to take her for a drive this week, to show her the foliage. She always loved trees and Fall. I don’t know if she can really handle a drive, but I am coming to accept that this is likely her last fall and I want her to enjoy it, as much as she can.
(^ As the colors change, some trees hold out and colors come in slowly. While, in the forest, the shadows grow longer the low sun brings shadows through the woods)
For the past four years I’ve told Little Man that he can not Trick-or-Treat anymore. “You’re too old,” I began telling him when he started Middle School. He and his best friend manage to convince us otherwise each year. Last year, at 14, I told him: “THIS is really it; enjoy it.” Now we have two exchange students who have never experienced Halloween and the temptation is there to make this the really, really last year. Instead, I will probably take them to the Michael Jackson Thriller flash mob that we went to last year, Downtown. I took Little Man, his Best Buddy M and a friend from Germany. They were all in costumes and a good friend of mine was going to be dancing as one of the zombies. I’d never been and was excited to see her, but had subdued expectations. Instead, it was an amazing event that we all enjoyed far more than any one of us anticipated. The dancers were great, the college students rocked the costume scene as Jelly fish, characters from movies and literature, zombies galore, and creative twists that left my jaw agape. As we all danced, a light rain began to fall, and the high beam lights used to light the square made the falling rain feel like a special effect. It only fueled our revelry. On the way home the boys told me it was “the best night of their lives,” and while I knew that other things would come along and replace that notion, it will always be one of my fondest memories with my youngest son. (Photo of Red/orange of my finger over the lens, in the sunshine ->)
So while Fall brings a myriad of experiential memories, moods, hopes, etc for me, I embrace this season and am grateful for these past few sunny days with the sun shining. The air is just cool enough to warrant my favorite sweaters but not so cold that I’m wishing for Spring. I have been bringing my camera with me when I go out and taking more time to stop and celebrate the beauty around me. I am eating crisp apples and thinking about roasted pumpkin seeds. I know that the holidays will be upon us soon and the leaves will all have fallen. We will take out our skis and get ready for the fun that comes in Winter, then head for the mountains. Today, I am letting the color and meaning of this season fall on me, and I am happy to rest in its warm glow, its dazzling color, for a while. (If you click on the photos you can see them enlarged. Try the links as well.)
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