Friday, September 8, 2017

A Tale of Two Seasons

On the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, rather than going for a hike or a bike ride or an end-of-summer trip to the beach, we settled into what felt like a fall day. That morning was one of a string of chilly mornings, and the day’s damp start turned into a steady rain by lunch time. I was tempted to nudge the thermostat up and kick the furnace into action for the first time since May, but it just seemed too early.

Some gifts of the changing seasons.
Instead, we lit a fire in the fireplace, letting the woodpecker-drilled logs of an old apple tree burn into fresh ashes on the hearth floor, swept clean months ago. We dug through the shorts and t-shirts of summer to find jeans and fleece tops and socks. And during the big weekly grocery shop, I put a roasting chicken into the cart rather than something to throw on the grill. For good measure, we added locally-grown apples to bake into a pie.

It’s a bittersweet transition, this shift from full summer to early fall. I lament the new darkness of early mornings and the relative freedom of summer days spent mostly with the kids, but I am also relieved to get back to a more predictable routine of work, school, soccer practice – busy as it is.

Probably it was that return to the school year schedule that meant the kids were happy enough to spend a rainy day inside Sunday. Although the hauling out and tidying up of bedrooms was met with a chorus of complaints, the rest of the day they were content to cozy up inside, read, play a few games. Not a bike was ridden, nor a ball kicked all day. There was no tree-climbing or swimming hole jumping or even digging in the sandbox.

It was a stay-at-home day unlike any we’ve had since the flip-flops came out – and are unlikely to see again until that brief window in November between the end of soccer season and the start of ski season.

That nestling in against the cool and gray of outside, the crackle of the fire and cinnamon-tinted scent of apples baking felt welcomingly cozy. Still, we were happy when Monday dawned suddenly summery again. Back we went to doors flung open to warmth and brightness, to running around barefoot in the grass, to savoring the waning light of summer. That night I pushed aside the extra blanket I’d added during the recent chilly nights and slept again with windows wide open, on sheets dried on the line and smelling of sunshine.

Despite the rainy week that has ensued, that brief return to summer amid autumnal weather was a reminder that we haven’t fully turned the corner into fall yet. We are on the transitionary cusp, with one foot loitering in summer, even as the other one is stepping toward fall.

Yes, the mornings and evenings are darker now, the leaves are making their undeniable transition from summer green to autumn red-orange-gold, and the vegetables remaining in the garden are of the hardier variety – beets and carrots and kale – but chances are we’ll have a few more days that feel like summer. Days where we can toss aside the sweaters and pull out the t-shirts again, turn faces to the sun, maybe dip still-tanned toes into the cool river. Days that seem like a gift from the passing season, even as we cozy up to the next one.

Original content by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul, posted to her blog, Writings From a Full Life. This essay also appears as Meghan's Close to Home column in the September 8, 2017 issue of the Littleton Record.