Thursday, September 30, 2010

Autumn in More Ways than One


Here in Minnesota, by the time the calendar announces the start of autumn, we're already in full sway. A few of the maples begin turning their colors in early September, and my staghorn sumac was hinting yellow by mid month. Winter, too, will impatiently come well before the Dec. 22 calendar date, often settling in here shortly after Halloween.

Autumn has always been my favorite time of year. There's a poignancy about it, as we're always well aware that the first killing frost is just around the corner, even while the gardens and landscapes are at their most colorful. Minnesota is mid summer is a lush place dominated by greens, but as autumn begins, the greens are beginning to turn to yellows and browns, and the garden plants still flowering take on an almost neon intensity: brown-eyed susans, asters, mums.

For some people, autumn is a somewhat sad time, but I've never felt that way about it. There is just a hint of melancholy about it, but it's that kind of nice melancholy, like you get before going to bed after a full day of boisterous, fun activity. Winter for me is a time of peace and contentment, as so it doesn't particularly bother me that summer is over. Summer 2010 was a little stressful for me this year, with a difficult economy making for a challenging work situation, and a bum knee giving me a fair amount of physical pain to accommodate. So I find myself ready for a more restful autumn and winter.

The last couple of years have found me feeling even more nostalgic in autumn, and I wonder if this is perhaps because I'm now in the early autumn phase of life myself. I'll be turning 55 later this year, eligible for senior citizen discounts at Perkins restaurants, and with a family legacy that has most everyone moving onward in their 60s or 70s, I'd be fooling myself to imagine that I'm still a young man. You might think that this would be sobering or depressing, but strangely it's not.

I suppose I take comfort from the fact that I've never seen a winter that wasn't followed by spring. It's just that one day in the future, spring will look quite a bit different than ever before.