This Fall Interval

In this interval, we hauled the hay, stacked the wood, stowed the cushions from the outdoor furniture. We transported the flowerpots that spent the summer adorning the decks around the house down the hill to the greenhouse. If the plants survive the travails of overwintering, they’ll take the ride uphill again in spring; otherwise they’ll be committed to the compost pile.

In this interval, we’ve unhooked the hoses and winterized the watering system in the garden. We ate fresh peas and beans until we got tired of the legume regimen and I blanched and froze the rest. The tomatoes plumped on their vines but refused to ripen until I brought them inside to a warm windowsill, where the uniformly green forms gradually matured into a collage of red, reddish-brown, and yellow.

In this interval, the mule deer bucks strut under their sharp antlers. They’ve grown husky at the neck and now spar with one another and harass the does. We hear bull elk bugling on the hillside below, drawing the attention of mates, rivals, and hunters.

In this interval, the grass has spun itself gold in the wind. The aspens, leaf by leaf and branch by branch, splashed the landscape yellow, taking that assignment over from the late blooming sunflowers. Polka dots of rust erupted on the leaves of the currant bushes, which then fell to the ground, where the sticky geraniums were closing out the season with a leafy flare of lurid red.

In this interval, the first frost came late, but arrived as a killer, a plunge into single digits that switched off the kaleidoscope turn—green, saffron, maroon, umber—of the scrub oak on distant slopes. Within a day after the cold snap, there was but one fall color: brown. The winter preview did not open on a feature presentation of Indian summer, not this year. The advertised show cued up immediately after the coming attractions had played. Snow has already come and gone, come (a little) and gone, and now come again.

Is there a season more complicated than autumn? Fall is bright color and fading. Preparations for the long dark are interspersed with events of celebratory gratitude. This season offers relief from the frenetic pace of the summer’s long days with its own lists, but these tasks are blessedly well-defined and finite, so unlike the ceaseless churn of warm-weather chores. For all its busyness, summer seems absurdly simplistic in comparison, and spring, with its melodramatic swings between promise and blizzard, is at least consistent in its teasing. Winter is the judicious and slightly cranky sage, counseling reflection, patience, and endurance in gruff no-nonsense terms.

Autumn, though? Autumn is melancholy and anticipatory at once. Fall portends rest, poses an ending that intimates a re-start, but only after a duration appropriate for contrition. All feels ephemeral, gradual, a slow coast toward stillness, a sense of closing that mostly—mostly—manages to avoid the provocations of finality.

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9 Responses to This Fall Interval

  1. Rosemary Robinson says:

    Oh wow! You took me from the business of autumn to the stillness of winter; the colours of fall to a monochrome winter and then the anticipation of new life after a period of rest and recovery. Very evocative!

  2. What a gorgeous essay on fall! So good I can’t think of anything else to say!

  3. Pat Dubrava says:

    So many similarities and so many differences in the arrival of autumn and our ritual of chores preparing for it: down here in Denver the snows have been brief and quickly gone, but that first killer cold came so early, while we were gone, and the geraniums I left in bright red bloom were withered brown when we got back. You describe that so well, the lovely colors of fall, gone in one fell swoop with a hard freeze.

  4. Marcy Welk says:

    Today is 60 at the cabin in Eldora. Tomorrow 6.
    I’m in from stacking wood, taking a breakfast break and then back at it.
    Your autumn story is a perfect companion to a season I am relating to fully.

    Cheers to you and Doug!

  5. Andrea Jones says:

    Heavens, Linda, that’s high praise, coming from you, thanks! I’m glad I was able to squeeze in an essay about fall before winter arrived: 14 degrees here today, our second day of deep cold, now with the snow (8 inches and counting) to go with it.

  6. Andrea Jones says:

    That hard freeze in early October seemed unduly definitive and harsh, Pat: more of a dunk tank than the slow glide toward winter. Fortunately for me, the snow melted quickly and the chores resumed, but this winter/fall/winter whipsaw has put a real edge on the season.

  7. Andrea Jones says:

    Thank you, Marcy. Seems that wood will be coming in handy this winter…er, or is it still fall? Or did we already jump ahead to winter?? I’m so confused.

    Cheers back at ya.

  8. Nature has been slowing down, but the same can’t be said of you, Andrea! I hope with your chores behind you, you will now be able to adopt a slower pace.
    Your last paragraph encapsulates all the tumultuous emotions associated with autumn perfectly. I hope that the melancholy sense of finality will be outweighed by the hopeful anticipation of a new beginning.
    Stay warm!
    Tanja

  9. Andrea Jones says:

    Tanja, I’m catching glimpses of winter-paced life, here and there. “Tumultuous” indeed, from weather to emotions to the daily schedule. Thanks for the warm wishes: back at you!

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