I have written here before about autumn, which has long been my favorite season. Why? For years I welcomed the return of cool weather after my non-air-conditioned summers. But more than that, I’ve always looked forward to the first days of school, where I would have new opportunities to educate a fresh crop of students by throwing them off-balance and asking them to think a bit harder about what they thought they knew, or what they thought they couldn’t do. But it’s more than that.
Fall, like spring, is a transitional season, and we are taking part in the transition. We have moved the kayak and paddleboards into the garage. We have taken down the screens – also moved to the garage. We trimmed back the daylilies, and some other flowers whose names I have unsurprisingly forgotten. We decided to leave several kinds of flowers untrimmed because birds like the seeds. This week we put up our bird feeders and welcomed our old friends, the chickadees and nuthatches – Kim has counted 20 different species here in September. Our hummingbirds are still here, and we will leave that feeder up for a while for hummers passing through from Canada. I checked out my small inventory of snow shovels, though we don’t expect any until November 1. We discussed when to bring in the removable section of our new deck-dock (as we call it), and we made room in garage for our classic wooden Adirondack chairs. On Friday I put on a white “summer shirt” for our farewell drinks with Rick and Sandy, who have now headed for California, and their dock is now stacked on the shore. Monday we enjoyed a cool rainy morning as a way to underscore the transition away from summer’s warmth.
We are also making plans for next year. Kim is collecting seeds from cosmos (bright yellow flower) to be planted in in April, and we looked up our other garden plants that we plan to prune in late winter / early spring. We (Kim) decided to move the rattlesnake master (yes, that’s a flowering plant) along with other plants for next year’s garden. We decided to get an April load of wood chips for our paths and garden mulch, which means pitchfork and wheelbarrow time for me, which I’m looking forward to. We arranged for a painter to put a preservative/stain on our porches, steps to the beach, and the deck/dock. And we are planning more outings next summer – trips to Whitefish Point in the Upper Peninsula, a major birding spot, plus more day trips for birds and butterflies as Kim’s very gradual recovery continues.
Autumn engages us in cyclical time rather than linear time. Linear time moves in one direction, and we know where that ends up. Cyclical time is profoundly different, as it takes us through a pattern of recurrent events – the hours of the day with habitual or ritual patterns, the calendar with its recurring holidays, this blog every Thursday, the seasons of the year, sports seasons, birthdays (cyclical if you ignore the higher numbers). These cycles help me feel like I am escaping from time’s grip, though the analogy to water’s circling the drain comes to mind. I have written about this before – in fact, I may write about cyclical time every year.
As an antidote to “circling the drain,” read Keats’ “To Autumn,” which begins, “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness . . .” and concludes, “And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.” Read the whole lovely thing.