Everyone who hails from Southern California (or any place between the 36 degree latitude lines) can relate to this post. Other regions mock us with the statement, “You don’t have seasons.” When I hear the disdain in their voices, I take it as confused jealousy. True, we measure our seasons in the changing of the drinks at Starbucks. Nothing warms my heart like the mention of a pumpkin spice latte around the beginning of October. It doesn’t feel like winter until the red cups with the snowflakes come out. But the reason why I love the changing of the drinks is because it’s a cue: time to look for fall. Fall in this part of the world is a treasure hunt. Consider this poem (I don’t have the patience for poems either, but bear with me, it’s only 3 stanzas):
Ode to Autumn
by John KeatsSeason of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
Did you read that? “And still more, later flowers… until they think warm days will never cease… for summer has over-brimmed their clammy cells.” Just last week I fell asleep next to the pool one afternoon after work. Fall tricked me again, as it does in this verse. A warm, mature sun that lulls us into a false sense of endless summer. That is the fall we have. “While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day… then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn… or sinking as the light wind lives or dies.” Fall is in the light. The light wind lives or dies. Wind. Fall is wind. Fall is clouds. Fall is gnats (in abundance). Fall is a soft-dying day. If this is so, who could falsely accuse us of having none?
The poetry confirms it. Our autumn is subtle. We may be a bit obtuse, so we need blatant cues like the pumpkin spice latte to attract our attention. But that does not mean we don’t have fall. Look around. The gourds are here, in bins at the grocery store. If you go running, I promise you will find more than one gnat who lost his life on your T-shirt. Midwest, East Coast, eat your heart out. Leave us to our fall. We like it. I’m going to go smell the late-blooming flowers.