Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Autumn Leaves

"Then summer fades and passes, and October comes. [We'll] smell smoke then, and feel an unsuspected sharpness, a thrill of nervous, swift elation, a sense of sadness and departure." This is one of my favorite quotes from Thomas Wolfe whose 110th birthday was celebrated earlier this month. I can appreciate Wolfe’s observations on the advent of autumn. It truly is my favorite season of the year. Perhaps Albert Camus said it best. "Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower." What a great image - awakening juxtaposed with a retreat into sleep. But this year autumn has added meaning.

Autumn has finally arrived in Maryland, and not soon enough after one of the hottest summers on record here along the Atlantic Seaboard. We even had a few rather uncomfortably hot days during our summer sojourn at the lake in Maine. The first days of autumn here in Maryland, just over a month ago, were memorable as temperatures once again climbed into the high 90s, hopefully for the last time this year. Yet soon the weather and temperatures turned more seasonable and the telltale signs of the fall season, which came unusually late this year, arrived finally and all seems right in the world. And why should it be so? Our son Ian, our one and only, is getting ready to marry the love of his life in just a few days and I am pleased, and take a certain degree of comfort, in the fact that we will have autumn foliage to enjoy on that very special day.

In the meantime, Sally Ann and I were able to take our annual road trip to look for pumpkins, apple cider, and the other accouterment of autumn. These trips tend to be northward, into the northern precincts of Maryland and over the border into southern Pennsylvania, and this year was no different. The farther north we traveled, the leaves turned more hues of autumn color. As we travel these rural byways I am reminded of those memorable Midwestern autumns when I was a kid, when we raked leaves from the yard and piled them curbside in front of our house. Dad would set fire to the pile while we continued to feed more leaves to the flames. Decades later the smoke and the aroma of burning leaves still tingle my nose. We stop by familiar nurseries where flowering plants and trees have given way to piles of pumpkins and gourds of every size, color and description. Shelves are stocked with canned goods from summer fields and orchards. We also stop by our favorite bison ranch in Linesboro, Maryland where we fill our cooler with various cuts for our freezer.

At the end of the day we make our way southward, to Baltimore, where we have a quiet dinner at our friend’s restaurant in the East Harbor neighborhood. When we arrive home, we put away our culinary treasures and scatter the pumpkins we have purchased on the front porch and various rooms around the house. It was a welcome respite to drive through the autumnal landscapes we have come to love over the years.

Now we must turn our attention to Ian’s wedding and we hope the autumn leaves will stay around for that blessed event. I sit here in my kitchen and look out to the leaves falling all around, and I am reminded of something John Muir once wrote. "I wonder if leaves feel lonely, when they see their neighbors falling?”