Tag Archives: Autumn

Intimations of Autumn

young pumpkin

I never liked August. Too hot, too long, and school couldn’t come fast enough. My daughter can’t wait for school to start, she’s like me. But my sister, on the other hand, loves..loves summer. Any time I may hint that autumn is around the corner, she growls at me. This blog is not for her.

I like August a little bit more now since my son was born smack dab in the middle of the month. His birth, my third, was going to be a casual affair. My sister and some friends came to witness his birth. We were all hanging out, laughing, waiting…well, they were. I was in labor. As much as I like people, labor is not the time to hang out. I didn’t even like the dad around.

So, August, with the exception of Eugene’s birthday, is one of my least favorite months. Until…the weather begins to change. Yesterday was a nice day. One coworker commented the weather was just weird. But, I’ve lived in the Bay Area long enough to know that in August there are days when the wind stills and the humidity rises. Some of the residual tropic weather from the south sweeps north just long enough to flirt with us, spook us (earthquake-weatherish) and, of course, make us sweat. As I try not to complain about the short discomfort the heat brings, I am reminded that this is the first intimation of autumn. It’s coming. Yay!

Another intimation, which like Christmas is coming sooner and sooner, is the fall display racks at JoAnn’s and the back-to-school items at every store. I think I saw fall items at JoAnn’s in June…a little too soon, uhm, no, not for autumn colors, decorations, all the physical reminders of cooler weather, holidays, fires and baking. Autumn is the coziest of seasons. The holidays beckon the family together, cooking becomes a high priority, and crafting is resurrected. All the things I LOVE to do. And when those activities subside, the shorter days give way to  longer, pleasurable nights of reading. What is not to love?

Finally, the most exciting intimation of autumn is the falling off of those early victims of the deciduous cycle. I see them huddled in corners, sparsely strewn on walkways, waiting for the rest of their kind to heap upon them. Not too many piles now, but I have found a few to stomp through. What is it about the crunching of dead leaves, the crackling, the swishing that is so comforting? As a young girl, I remember so clearly walking on a damp road in Santa Rosa, through the leaves, acorns and pebbles; it is one of my fondest memories…so simple, so beautiful, so soothing, I can still smell the damp earth, hear the crunching, feel the cold. I know a therapist who uses stones for her patients, just touching  and caressing the stone brings relief for their anxiety. That’s what walking through autumn leaves does for me.

Enjoy the rest of your summer. I’ll sit here and continue to spy out other intimations of autumn.

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Autumn Days are the Best

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In “Miss Congeniality”, sweet, innocent, slightly obtuse Miss Rhode Island responded when asked to describe her perfect date, she sweetly responded, “…April 25th. Because it’s not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket.”  I must disagree with Miss Rhode Island and submit the perfect date would probably land between September 23 and December 21, preferably in October before the time change. I was walking to the main office this morning and was illumined with the fact that autumn days are indeed the best days.

The heat of summer has mellowed to a cozy warmth, Indian Summer excepted, and is coupled with cool evenings that automatically compels one to bake, build fires and read books. For the highly energetic, much sewing can be done. These days are equally split, for the most part, between night and day, approximately 12 hours each. I can’t get enough of autumn days. Not only is the season packed with the best holidays of the year, it is a time conducive to contemplation and meditation.

I am not saying anything new to other fall-a-philes. The air is magically refreshing, the wind delightful, and, as you can see, the sunsets are off the hook. Spring is nice, but it’s still too cold. The boys of spring are putting their gear away, the boys of autumn are in full swing and basketball has hit the courts again.

No “Lazy, Hazy Crazy Days of Summer”, no “April Showers” or  “Winter Wonderland”, these are the times for “Autumn Leaves”, “September Song” and “Four Strong Winds.” I am not alone in my admiration, Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Just as a painter needs light in order to put the finishing touches to his picture, so I need an inner light, which I feel I never have enough of in autumn.” Washington Irving in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” wrote,

It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day; the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet…As Ichabod jogged slowly on his way, his eye…ranged with delight over the treasures of jolly autumn.

Finally, Elizabeth J. Eames in “An Autumn Reverie” echoes the sentiment of all true lovers of autumn,

Autumn! sad, sighing, yet most lovely Autumn, again art thou here; and again with feelings “pleasant but mournful to my soul,” do I greet thy return. And the strangest feelings of mingled pleasure and pain are awakened at thy approach, though thou excitest emotions less rapturous and fancies less playful, yet hath thy presence for me a solace and a spell unfelt amid the greener verdure, brighter sunbeams and more fragrant flowers of Summer. Dearer to me than the clustering roses of June, are they withered stalk and falling leaf…. And for the heart, the busy, changeful human heart, thou hast a thousand stirring chords, whose vibrations awaken with an electric influence its slumbering sensibilities, and whose sympathetic music responds with all the truth of an echo.

When nature heaves her dying breath in this glorious season, it leaves us breathless with her beauty. Breathless as she blows toward the tomb of winter, the tomb of the past year, the womb of the next.

“Blues of Falling Leaf” by Leonid Afremov, used with permission.                                       www.afremov.com

 Autumn Sunset


Autumn and Joe Montana

joe montana

A family member brushed shoulders with Joe Montana several years ago. My father had called and asked, “Guess who so and so ran into?” I wasn’t in the mood for any guessing games; there was a heat wave, the kids were going crazy, and I’m sure a million other things were going wrong. “I don’t know, who?” I surrendered. “Come on, guess.” “I don’t know, Arnie?” “Bigger than Arnold.” Oh, great, who was bigger than Arnold here in California? “I have no idea.” “His initials are J.M.” I tried to think of someone and gave up. “I have no idea, I have no brain cells left to even try and guess.”

“Joe Montana.” He whispered.

“No way!” I exclaimed, “no way!” “How? When?” He went on and told me the details of the encounter. I was genuinely impressed and very envious.

Joe Montana. The man who I think is the greatest football player in my lifetime. I couldn’t believe it. This man and his extraordinary ability on the field found their way into our family’s existence. I’ve never met him nor ever will. But the thought of Joe Montana not only conjures up images of great football, but also of intimate, warm memories of autumns gone by. His ball playing added color and vibrancy to my little life here in Northern California.

Today is the first day of autumn, and it’s hard not to recall the autumns of my youth without Joe there, albeit on the sidelines in the game of my life. See, I love fall, I love Halloween and Thanksgiving. I love oranges, and browns, and forest greens. I love the way the wind changes during Indian Summer with the sweet Santa Anas blowing off the East Bay hills. I loved playing and watching football, so for many years, Joe Montana was a part of those favorite memories.

For many years, our family went up to the Russian River for our Thanksgiving holiday. My father had a cabin up there; but we went to my uncle’s cabin for the big meal. That house has become a shrine in my memory. The dining room table, enclosed by three benches where we five kids sat below a shelf lined with Italian wine bottles, was where we had our Thanksgiving dinner; I can still see my little Irish grandmother puttering around in the small kitchen, tasting from one pot or another and even offering us some of her mince meat pie. We gently refused. An intimate fire always warmed the living room and off to one corner was a small twin bed where I slept on my rare overnight visits to Uncle Bill’s cabin. Near the bed was a bookshelf, filled with all sorts of literary treasures, and when I was there, I was in heaven.

You know, when you’re young you’re not conscious of the beauty around you, those moments go by, but somehow they’re stamped somewhere in your mind and when the stresses of the present weigh you down, you look back and those memories have become jewels. I wish I spent more time with my grandmother, I wish I could remember her voice, her face – I wish I could ask her about when my father was little (probably would explain a lot), about my grandfather and about her.

But, where does Joe come into this picture? Well, my father played ball for the Navy and then went on to coach. So football was a big part of our lives. Every Thanksgiving guaranteed two things: that incredible meal and tons of football. Football was the only thing on TV from Thursday morning until Sunday night, and if you didn’t bring a book or something to occupy your time, you were destined to watch it all. One year I tallied how many games I had watched: 11; I guess that doesn’t seem like too many now with cable and ESPN.

The highlight of the weekend was always the Notre Dame game. One year some upstart 3rd string quarterback came in and won the game for the Irish. We didn’t know then a legend was in the making. Watching those games with my dad with the redwood logs crackling in the fire, rain pattering on the roof and my mother baking something delicious in the kitchen all at the time seem so average, so typical, so mundane; now, they are photographs in my mind, colors and flavors of who I am.

When I think of Joe Montana, I am flooded with these beautiful memories. Were they idyllic? Absolutely not, there were darker shades that mar some of these memories, but strange as our memories are, those hues fade a bit to the background.

But Joe Montana, like football, transcends seasons. His presence would reappear in bolder, more spectacular strokes with that catch in 1982. After that unbelievable Super Bowl, I went to the celebration downtown to pass out religious tracts. San Francisco hadn’t been rocked with such a force since April of 1906. That was the place to be on January 24, 1982. And in my own life, I too was rocked, with a divine force, after I had recently embraced a living faith in Christianity.

But, that happiness in January of 1982 was just a deposit of things to come. He took San Francisco to the Super Bowl three more times. He catapulted the 49ers into the league with Green Bay, Miami and Pittsburgh. Time after time after time, with seconds to go and touchdowns to make, Joe, with his cool expertise, would go in and do the job.

Football, as you know, is a manly, messy, bloody sport. The sport that gives men license to beat the hell out of each other and gives us fans an outlet for adulation for our team and hatred for our opponents. With the language of longshoremen and the manners of adolescents, Joe Montana took these elements of the game and, effortlessly, made it beautiful. He is an artist of the utmost ability. After he retired, I pretty much quit watching the game. I caught a few Super Bowls with the kids and that was fun, but no comparison.

But after witnessing who I believe is the greatest to play the game during my lifetime, there is no desire to watch anymore. Thank you, Joe, for the beauty and grace that you created out of pigskin and mud, and gracing our autumns with such spectacular color .

‘Delicious Autumn! My Very Soul is Wedded to It …’

As a writer, one of my most primitive fears is that the well will dry up, that the cistern is indeed broken and there is nothing left. I don’t think I am alone with that fear; I think many artists feel that way. Before I freeze up and abandon all writing projects because I think I am a fraud, I go to my treasure chest of ideas, my childhood memories. There are so many real and imagined memories from growing up, that almost each one in itself is a seed for a column. It is my savings account, if you will.

In the ‘60s, my family lived in Santa Rosa. It was an idyllic five years. We lived on a short street next to the school where passions for poetry, music and geography were born. All the neighborhood kids played together, and I was devastated when we had to move. Apple orchards, sardines in a can and block parties did not accompany us to Daly City.

One morning, I was walking on Hoen Avenue. I don’t know if I was walking home from St. Eugene’s or Sambo’s. It was fall, it had rained that morning or the night before, the quiet road was damp and sprinkled with acorns. The leaves were wet and odiferous. This memory I cherish because I believe this moment is the moment I fell in love with autumn. I clearly remember the crunching of the leaves and gravel under my shoes, the cool air being kept out by my warm jacket, the smell of the wet earth and crushed leaves. The memory is short, just a moment captured in my mind, but this moment has followed me for over 40 years, igniting the passion every year for this glorious season.

I echo George Eliot’s praise, “Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”

The fact that autumn coincides with a return to school compounds my joy. I loved school growing up, and to go back with this season right around the corner only heightens both experiences. I remember one fall, I think I was in 3rd grade, and I had to write a story for class. I wrote a five page story about Frankenstein, the Wolfman and Dracula. I was so proud of this writing; I wish I had kept it. (By the way, this is why I keep all of my kids’ writings.) That same year, I wrote a book, illustrated and bound it myself.

Perhaps my best fall memory was when I was living in Half Moon Bay in the ‘70s. I was working for a realtor and business was slow, so slow that I was dying with boredom. Luckily, he let me read….sweet. I read the entire trilogy of The Lord of the Rings, some of the Bible and old favorites from high school.

This time of my life was filled with floral skirts, clogs and Neil Young songs. The Pumpkin Festival was coming, and pumpkins were everywhere. The landscape was punctuated with orange in freshly tilled fields, and stocks of corn husks and scarecrows dotted the porches of all the businesses. Slices of pumpkin pie were had at the bakery by Cunha’s Market, and daily I was in heaven with an Original Johnny’s cheeseburger. I lived there for one season, but it was one of the most magical seasons of my life. Half Moon Bay is beautiful in the fall.

Even this fall morning, when I opened the door, the off-shore wind boldly and warmly greeted me. Dancing leaves swirled around me like giddy children and wafts of jasmine intoxicated me. It’s going to be a nice day.

Autumn-Landscape-With-A-Flock-Of-Turkeys