Fall is unquestionably my favorite season for a variety of reasons, and one I look forward to each year. For one thing, a summer in Georgia is never a pleasant experience for most people and even those that love hot weather don’t usually care for the oppressive humidity that can turn a 90 degree day into what feels like a 105 degree day. Heat and humidity do not a happy southerner make. A person from Las Vegas or Phoenix, where the temperature can easily reach 115 degrees understands what hot is for sure, but they aren’t dealing with the humidity we endure each summer.
Fall comes slowly here as the long hot summer is reluctant to loosen its grip quickly but once it finds a foothold, it usually stays put for many weeks, allowing Mother Nature the time to use her paintbrush and expertly apply her signature shades of amber, orange and scarlet to the trees. The grass begins to dry as it prepares for hibernation, while the humidity drops, ushering in a crispness in the air that makes you want to be back outside again. You notice the air conditioning coming on less frequently during the day and hardly at all at night….and even though the dog seems to want to take longer walks you don’t really mind because you enjoy being connected to nature again.
Of course, here in the south we never know exactly when it will start because the weather is always uncertain in this region but a look back at my journals shows that in 2002, we had our first chilly night on October 8th and in 2004 we had our first full day of fall weather day on September 17th. September is a temperamental month because it is the battle ground where the two seasons, summer and fall, come to wage war against one another as the young fall fights the old summer for dominance. It can be 95 one day and 65 the next, back and forth each week, and fall, being a tenacious season, gaining ground more and more. Summer finally says its last goodbye as October begins and my wife starts to feel the urge to decorate our porch with pumpkins, straw men and chrysanthemums in yellow. The leaves begin to change and the mowers are finally put away for the year.
For me, there are certain rituals that must be observed in order to make fall complete; a car club drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway in late October; a weekend in the north Georgia mountain town of Hiawassee where I have been going almost every year since I was born and a short trip just a few miles up the road to my grandmother’s house to see the spectacular Vermont sugar maples that she and my grandfather brought from that state as seedlings on a trip made over 50 years ago. They stand now as tall as the house and when clothed in their spectacular New England finery, have been acknowledged to be the finest examples of their kind anywhere in our county. At their peak, people slow down to admire this taste of the north in Georgia. It will be a little different this year, knowing this will be the first fall she won’t be here to see them.
Halloween trick-or-treating with our friends and our children is always a delight as their neighbors load up all the kids in golf carts and caravan around their neighborhood, side stepping eerie jack-o-lanterns and walking over leaf-strewn walkways, the shouts of children echoing in the night mixing with the laughter of the adults as they watch the spectacle unfold before them. A few more weeks go by and my second-favorite holiday, Thanksgiving arrives on the scene, with a trip to my Gainesville family’s home for a large family meal, throwing the football in the yard, bridge games in the house and snacking all afternoon as the last of the fall leaves turn loose from their parents and gently fall to the ground.
Fall is that time of the year that we buckle down again, the vacations all over, starting back to school for children, working around the house and enjoying the temperatures conducive to doing work outdoors….but it’s also a time that we pause and take stock of the glorious transformation going on around us and we find ourselves drawn once again to nature. It reminds us, much like spring, of the power of creation and the beauty we live in but that we so often take for granted. It is persistent in its power and grandeur, yet it is fleeting and reminds us not to ignore it for soon it will be gone. Fall is my favorite time of the year and I look forward to meeting nature once again on her terms and enjoying all that she has to offer.