The announcement came early in the day. I was at the row of mailboxes at the bottom of the hill. Sandra had tucked it into her pocket, waiting for a moment like this where she could share the news. “This is the last of it,” she said. “This is the last of the hot weather. It’s going to rain on Saturday.”
And it did. The rains came on the heels of a hot, smoky, too dry summer that had over stayed her welcome. And with the rains came the inspiration and promise of autumn. On that last day of summer, the mercury rose to 90 degrees. My lips couldn’t soak up enough Burt’s Bees. The dog lay sprawled on the cool, hardwood floor, not really interested in walking our usual trail, dusty from the months of unrelenting heat. On that very last day, after I returned from the mailboxes, I began to think about what I would do with autumn.
I thought about apple butter simmering for three days until it became thick and brown, the spices permeating the air, smells creeping from the pot on the stove to the floors and rising to the ceiling, filling the house with scents of clove and cinnamon. I dreamed about mums and peppers, gracing the front porch for another month, the last of flowers, a flourish of color and glory that would segue into brown and grey when winter frosts came.
I moved quickly, stealthily into the autumn promise, knowing that the announcement my neighbor Sandra had given me was true and certain. By Friday, I’d collected apples–honey crisps, red delicious and gala, for the large stainless steel pot where later in the week they would begin their transformation. I planted peppers in the remaining containers on the front porch and I defrosted chicken for the soup I would make on Saturday morning.
What if the rains didn’t come? What if it was another false alarm? What if autumn was cancelled this year and we were doomed to live only summer from now on? Oh I can hear the climate change deniers now, telling me this would somehow be good for business, that it would increase the bottom line. But the rains came and washed all those thoughts away. Another fall. Another change of seasons, and I was grateful and prepared to celebrate.
Friday night my husband came downstairs excited. “Come on,” he said as he pulled me by the hand. He took me outside where we stood on the deck as the rain was staring. We took in the smells and let the water drops splash on our hands and our faces. We raised our arms toward the sky and said, “thank you.” We sat down for a while, before the rain got heavy and talked about how wonderful the moisture felt, about how beautiful our oak tree was. Her branches spread out over us, keeping us sheltered as she dropped leaves that gently floated to the deck and swirled about our feet. The great grand oak of our valley, the one we imagine to be the grandmother of all the oaks that live here. That’s the story we have made up and delight in telling ourselves.
On Saturday, chicken soup simmered on the stove. A basket of apples sat on the chair awaiting their mission in life. The fireplace warmed the chilly living room and outside the ticking of rain on the grape arbor leaves sang the new season into being. It’s here. It came with flare and fanfare. I will never grow tired of the changes, the anticipation of the shift.
It is as if everything around me, everything inside of me relaxed. Last night found my husband and I sitting on the covered front porch in the dark. I wrapped a blanket around me. The dog lay down between us. And all of us listened to the rain, tilted our heads toward the sky, breathing in the time of decay and shedding that autumn brings, saying goodbye to a summer whose very last day was behind us now. Oh for the love of the seasons. Oh for the love of change.