Amid the blaring colors of autumn, summer has returned fleetingly to northern New England this week. Last week we dug out the wool socks and fleece pullovers, uncovered the mittens and ski hats, and huddled by the fireplace as frost painted the lawn and fields in an overnight cover of cold white. But then heat returned, and with it flip-flops and tee-shirts and skin bared to the light.
We call this Indian Summer, and I’ve never been sure why. Who has time to wonder, as the dark of evening creeps closer to midday? We push ourselves outside, faces turned toward the sun, knowing all too well what comes next.
Don’t get me wrong, I love winter. Always have. Anyone who has chosen to make her home in northern New England is wise to embrace winter and its stark, white beauty. We can ski here – if we’re lucky – during at least six months of the year. But loving winter does nothing, for me anyway, to lessen the joys of these warm, bright days in October.
This is the season of country fairs, when we celebrate the beauty of fall and the bounty of the summer just gone by. We postpone putting in the storm doors, hoping for a few more days of the house flung open to outside warmth. We dodge the steady stream of leaf-peepers choking the roads and trails and return to more secret places for the season. We cover the tomatoes when frost threatens, hoping for one more harvest, and we put up a bit of the summer produce to enjoy in the darkness of winter. We stack firewood, rake leaves, cut back the flower gardens.
Even as we cleave to the sunshine, we know the icy winds and long nights of winter are coming.
As a final act of faith that summer will return to some distant time, we dig into the still-warm earth and plant bulbs, thinking beyond the depths of winter snow to the first blooms of spring, when color will return in the gentle purple of crocuses, the happy yellow of daffodils, the warm red of tulips.