Archive for Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Beal: Weather is pleasant, but give me all four seasons

September 24, 2008

I was in a shop the other day when the woman who was helping me commented on the pleasant weather we've been having lately.

"As far as I'm concerned, it can just stay like this until March," she said, or words to that effect.

Please don't take offense, lady, but that's a terrible idea.

No seasons? How boring. Without suffering through the dog days of August, how would we appreciate the balmy days and crisp nights of autumn? Absent the rigors of winter, what would be so special about spring?

Monday was the autumnal equinox, the time when the sun crosses the equator, making night and day of equal length, and the official start of autumn.

Autumn! A time of bobbing for apples, of celebrating the harvest, of trick-or-treating, of seeing your breath on chilly nights and of high school football games.

One autumn in particular stands out in my memory. My mother planted fruit trees in the back yard of the home we first lived in when we moved to the city, and after about five years they finally began to bear fruit. But as luck would have it, the needs of a growing family forced us to move just at that time. Still, she got one good crop of peaches, and she canned most of them as preserves. One of the endearing memories of my childhood is of sitting on the back porch of our new home, eating those delicious, sticky preserves, slathered over home-made bread.

It's hard for me to think of autumn without thinking of Halloween. I know Thanksgiving technically comes during autumn, almost a month before the start of winter, but somehow in my mind I associate Thanksgiving more with winter.

We always had a great time at Halloween. I remember leading my brother and sisters, all of us in costumes we put together out of scraps and old clothing, around the neighborhood, then later going with my friends, and finally going with my own children when they were young. In those earlier times before the scares of the '70s, we'd take our swag home and spread it out on the kitchen table, a cornucopia of candies, popcorn balls, cookies and other treats.

Autumn also meant raking the leaves, although I confess that I never really did warm to that task. On Saturdays the air would be pungent with the aroma of burning leaves. Poignant memories aside, it's just as well we don't do that anymore.

Autumn is also a good time for enjoying the fall hues, although we may not be as colorfully equipped in that department as some regions of the country. Here in town, of course, some streets are spectacular enough, thanks to plantings years ago of maples and other trees known for their fall color. In nature, our dominant oaks and such pretty much leave us with browns and yellows, although the sumac in some years can be bright orange or red.

Here's a note: There's even an official Web site for autumn, autumn.us. However, autumn-us.com is actually the site for what appears to be a struggling maybe even a former Minneapolis rock band. The latest entry, from June 2007, is a cryptic note that the band was "dusting off the amps and playing out live again!" with a reference to an appearance scheduled the following August at Ground Zero, a Minneapolis night club. But I digress.

As tiresome as they can be at times, I'll stick with the changes of the seasons. I'm no more anxious for the first day of winter than anyone, but at least it'll make spring seem all the sweeter when it comes.

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