I never thought fall was all it was cracked up to be. The bright, crisp days. The vibrant red maples blazing against the cloudless sky.
Meh. For the birds, as far as I was concerned. To me it looked like one last desperate hurrah before November froze the ground and its frigid winds chilled me to the bone.
I never thought fall was all it was cracked up to be ... For the birds, as far as I was concerned.
As a child in upstate New York, autumn meant chilly mornings, and coming home from school as shadows got longer and afternoons got shorter. Weekends were full of end-of-season chores like cleaning out the grill, storing the patio furniture, raking all those leaves.
Eventually, I moved to New York City, where the year is divided in half: the Hot Miserable Season and the Wet Miserable Season. In the movies it’s always fall or spring in New York: in real life, it almost never is. When my next move brought me to Florida, I was more than happy to say goodbye to the seasons.
One of the strange things that happens to you when you live in the Sunshine State (and there are many) is that you develop a hyper-sensitivity to very small changes in temperature. You feel comfortable when the thermometer reads 81, but you complain about the heat when it’s 86. Then one day you hear yourself referring to 62 degrees as a “cold spell.”
After more than a decade down south, I got a job that brought me back to the Northeast, to Cape Cod this time. And it was here that I re-discovered the seasons and, for the first time, developed an appreciation for them.
Spring starts slowly on the Cape, with crocuses and daffodils. Then the Forsythias are everywhere — splatters of gold paint along every road. The other featured players take their turns — the azaleas, the lilacs, the dogwood, the rhododendrons. Then one morning you wake up and everything is a fresh, livid green. Like somebody blew a whistle and yelled, “ready, set, leaf!” and the plants just had no choice.
There’s a permanent haze here in the summer that mutes all the greens and blues, and it bleaches the sun bright white as tourists turn red. But Cape Codders really know how to do summer. We sit outside. We cook outside. We shower outside. If there’s a breeze or a patch of mottled shade, we find it. And if it’s a beach day, it’s a beach day. Whatever needs to be done can wait.
And winters — what can you say about winters on Cape Cod? They’re bleak. Compositions in grey, black and white. That’s what you can say about winters on Cape Cod.
But Autumn — the season I missed least in my previous life as a New Yorker and as a Floridian — is my favorite season on Cape Cod. The days are clean and cool, the nights are crisp and cozy. The afternoons go on and on, and the sunsets linger. There are fall colors, but they are subtler than they are in the “October Gave a Party” hills to our north — deep greens and russets, all set off against cranberry bogs that turn the earth scarlet. What I love most about autumn here is that it lasts — usually from September until early December.
Maybe autumn here isn’t so different from the autumns I grew up with. Maybe what’s different is me.
Maybe autumn here isn’t so different from the autumns I grew up with. Maybe what’s different is me. Back then I hated the season because it was a stepping-stone to winter. Now, I’ve seen people I care about run out of days, run out of seasons. I now understand that every day matters, every day has value. When the winter comes, I will welcome it. Surrounded by the ones I love, I will stay warm by the fire and listen to the snow’s silence.
But there’s no reason to think about that day, when there’s so much to love about this one. The bogs are starting to turn red. The sun’s falling yellow on the trees, and there’s a smell of wood smoke in the air.
- Autumn Smells Like Cotton Candy At The Arnold Arboretum
- Pop Culture Happy Hour: Autumn Leaves And Fall Amusements
- Cognoscenti: Cold Comfort: A Non-Native's Guide To New England Winters
This program aired on October 11, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.