Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Why I Missed Autumn (And Why You Did, Too)

[Read the post, leave a comment, and be entered in the GIVE AWAY!]

First: About November in Particular
Autumn in September and October is colorful and wonderful, but November can be another story. Bare November days don't frighten me anymore, but at one time I found them repressive. Now, I can enjoy their particular beauty (which Robert Frost elucidates precisely in his poem, "My November Guest," featured in my latest newsletter. If you aren't on my subscriber list, you can access the issue HERE.)

I seem to remember a preponderance of grey gloomy days from Novembers in my youth, though now I think some of that gloom was because I lived in Queens, New York. Not the endless, drab row-house Queens Hollywood loves to portray (which makes up only a tiny fraction of what the county is like), but in the last small-town outside of New York City within Queens County--College Point. This is to say it wasn't because my surroundings were tenement houses or gloominess--on the contrary, College Point was mostly middle class and had the houses with backyards to prove it. Homes were close together by country standards, but our home featured a driveway on both sides of the house, both of which were framed by flower beds and neighboring green yards. Our back yard was about 1/4 acre. (Despite what you see on television, much of Queens is still like this.)   

Let me detour on a short history lesson: When I was a child and teenager College Point was still a small town. This was mostly because it was cushioned on three sides by the East Bay and had only three roads in--or out--two of which would flood after a good rain. In retrospect, these roads (harrowing if you were on a school or city bus that had to navigate a passage without getting stuck) were what kept us isolated. The mushrooming of other portions of Queens County into Astoria look-alikes (read: mini Manhattans) was held at bay for the near two decades of my life spent there. In contrast, the last time I was in College Point (summer of 2013), I kept saying, "What happened to Bedford Falls?" It now seemed more like Pottersville. The old College Point had vanished. 

In any case, Novembers were often gloomy then. I used to marvel that the great blue skies and fluffy clouds of September and October could disappear into the grey oblivion of gloomy November. As the days darkened, my spirits seemed to sink with them. New York winters seemed long and dark as well.

Nevertheless, as an adult, I often feel that I never enjoy the seasons as I did as a child, including Autumn even in November.  Yesterday, November 10th, the weather was unseasonably warm, and the sky a cheery blue. The radio forecaster warned that this would be the last of the warm weather for now, so I purposed to take my daily tea break in the yard to enjoy it. Sitting there, hardly hearing the sound of children's voices wafting over from a neighbor's property, it occurred to me that once again I was feeling as though I'd missed the season.

This didn't make sense, exactly.

As a gardener, I'd gotten to spend a few wonderful days cleaning out my garden, chopping the languishing frost-tipped greens to put  back into the beds to nourish next year's soil. I'd harvested the very last of the year's squash and tomatoes, reluctantly saying goodbye to the delight of fresh produce, but happy to have had these days to play in the dirt before winter. We'd also gone apple picking--twice--a definite must for Autumn in my case, if one is to try and be true to childhood's rhythms.   The accompanying smells of cinnamon and nutmeg filled the house, we ate homemade (Paleo) apple pies, and I infused the house with yet more of the heavenly scent by dehydrating a good amount of the 60 lbs of apples we picked, after sweetening them with a sprinkling of cinnamon and xylitol*. My daughter and I collected a respectable amount of pumpkins, and we even did a pumpkin craft when she had a friend sleep over. (See picture.)

Grace's owly pumpkin
So, in other words, I'd done my time. I'd been outdoors. I'd 'oohed and aaahed' at the fall colors on drives about the countryside. I closed up the summer backyard accoutrements, we'd covered the pool, and my husband was sealing up doors and windows to be winter ready. I'd even sat out on the pool deck in the afternoon sun just to admire the huge oaks around the property and the other beauties of the season.

So why was I still feeling like I'd missed it?

Second: About Autumns of Childhood, in Particular
As I sat outside, the sound of the children's laughter--one of whom was my daughter, as she was playing with friends--penetrated my jaded mind, and it hit me: I couldn't reclaim the feeling of being outdoors in the fall as I had when I was a child for the simple reason that I'm no longer one. I got kicked out of the club somewhere along the line, you might say, and there is no going back. You can't renew your membership in that one. I could sit outside for three hours and it wouldn't begin to echo the Autumns of my childhood because then, one hour would have been spent with my best friend Juni, as we hunted out newly fallen chestnuts hiding in the brown crunchy leaves; we'd pry them from their green, prickly houses for our collection. (There is nothing quite like extracting a beautiful shiny new chestnut from its casing. It felt to us little different, I'm sure, than a diver feels upon finding a pearl--though not quite as rare.)

The second hour would have been spent by walking and talking, kicking at leaves, making a pile of them, perhaps, or having a game of hand-ball in the schoolyard mid-way between the block and a half that separated my house from hers. Sometimes we'd walk down to the town park and traverse the paved trail that followed the rocky water's edge. It was fenced, keeping you safely off the rocks, but we had been known to find an opening in that fence and have a heck of a time balancing along the jutting--and treacherous-- rocks until we'd gotten clear to the other side of the park--where the fence abruptly ended. We might stop at the playground in that park and hit the swings, perhaps the monkey bars, too. By the time we got back home, just before dusk, our hands and feet were deliciously cold, and our cheeks red and frosty. THAT is how you enjoy an autumn day. 

Nowadays, I may be outside to do yard work, rake leaves, clean a garden, or even sit and admire the trees and sky, but I'll tell you something: It isn't the same. 

How did I miss Autumn? I missed it by growing up. And you, probably, did too.

What do you think? Is Autumn anything like that of your younger days? What do you do to enjoy the fleeting splendor of the season?  Leave a comment and I'll choose one person to win a copy of one of my books--my choice. Winner will be chosen using random.org, and will receive a copy of EITHER Before the Season Ends, The House in Grosvenor Square, OR The Country House Courtship.  

*Xylitol --a natural, diabetic safe sweetener used as a safer alternative to sugar. I use it as part of a healthy Paleo diet.

 Linore Rose Burkard is best known for writing historical regency romance. In addition to writing, she is a writing workshop instructor, homeschooling mother of five, gardener, Paleo cook, and reader. Subscribe to Linore's mailing list at http://www.LinoreBurkard.com.


chaplaindebbie said...

Hey! Long time!
I think that there are many phases of life that we leave behind....we may never get those times back, but what we experience in the here and now can be just as special. Having grandchildren has allowed me to experience a whole new season in my life....and I wouldn't go back for anything.

Linore Burkard said...

No, I wouldn't want to go back, either. (Good to "see" you!) Except maybe for one long Autumn day...lol. I realized after I wrote this that it was almost one year to the day since I said goodbye for now...So I took a year off from blogging--and I'm glad I did. Hope you're doing well!

chaplaindebbie said...

I am great and the past year just flew by. Hope you post here more often again.

Linore Burkard said...

Thanks, Debbie. And come to think of it, when my kids were all young I didn't feel like I missed Autumn, so having little ones to enjoy it with makes a difference, as you said.

Pat Cochran said...

I'm from Houston, TX where Autumn
used to be non-existent. Warm weather began with Spring, got up
to triple digits, and didn't get cool until early December. If not
for school and football season get-
ting underway, we would not have known that Fall had arrived!

Pat Cochran

Linore Burkard said...

Hi Pat,
I don't think I'd like that area of Texas! The fall is such a beautiful time of year, including the crisp, cooler air.

SpreadinJoy said...

I think you're absolutely right. Fall was exciting when I was headed back to school, I lived in the Midwest and the colors are more pronounced (compared to the NW, since more than half our trees are tall evergreen Firs) and I enjoyed playing in the leaves -- shuffling through them. I similarly have noticed the autumn has evaporated into a wintry feel -- we had pouring rain for weeks and now it's too cold out to go do Fall planting/gardening or sitting on the deck. Thanks for your post!

Linore Burkard said...

Hi Spreadin'Joy--it's nice that you have all that green (the firs) throughout even the dead of winter, though! But yes, the fall colors are so beautiful,too. Thanks for coming by. :)

Linore Burkard said...

Chaplain Debbie you've won a book from me! We only got three comments but I used random.org anyway, and you were picked. Your faithfulness in commenting has been rewarded :). You've probably already read all my books but now you've got one to give as a Christmas gift if you need it. Please let me know whichof my three books you'd like: Before the Season Ends, The House in Grosvenor Square, or The Country House Courtship. Thanks and Congratulations!

chaplaindebbie said...

Yay! Thanks Linore! I would love a copy of The Country House Courtship. Do you need my address? You can email me at debsbunch5(at)gmail(dot)com.