“The childing autumn, angry winter, change. Their wonted liveries, and the mazed world. By their increase, now knows not which is which.”—William Shakespeare, “Midsummer Night’s Dream”
As daylight savings time ends on the east coast, all the clocks fall back an hour. It is November in New England: leaves fall gracefully to the ground, and dawn reveals the frost’s grip on the land.
Writers and poets often portray the fall sorrowfully, as a time when life ebbs, and the cold wind starts to gust. However, in New England, fall is the most beautiful season of all. I learned that fact sitting on the swings beside Stockton Field, watching the sunset. The sun sank low, burning a half-red lacuna in the blue-purplish sky, just above the mildly sloping silhouette of the mountain, which was a palimpsest of bright yellow, flaming orange, and burning red foliage. Chased by the wind, all these colorful pieces started dancing elegantly through the dry, cold, refreshing air; somewhere beneath that colorful canopy, creeks flowed at a brisk tempo. Eventually, the wind will wash this canvas of autumnal hues clean, leaving a scaffold of bare branches reaching out in a dull, monotonous winter gray.
But soon fall departs with her bright, colorful dress, dancing as she goes, engendering the apt sorrow of poets, the joy of painters and leaf-peepers, engendering that curious mixture of mirth or morbidity we all feel when something beautiful comes to an end. Her pleasant smell of fresh apples harvested in season still lingers in the air until it’s washed away by tears of rain.
Now, on the far side of November, rain falls down my window in a consistent rhythm. Is this blank opacity of sky singing a lullaby, gently putting the once-lush landscape to sleep for the winter? It is nothing like the spring, when its buoyant blue wakes up the seeds buried underground; nor is it like the summer, when massive thunderheads pour torrents to wash the face of the burning earth. Yes, the fall is a thing entirely its own, when raindrops ring through the bitter cold, ushering you inside, into the folds of some familiar blanket , and you begin to wonder when the first snow will float down to cover the dun-stained land.
Not an almanac, but the precautionary layering of hats and gloves, announces autumn’s end, a fortnight or so after the Halloween decorations are torn down. Cross-country season sprints through the finish line, just as a soccer ball flies into a winning goal; daylight grows scare and seems canted, even at noon; the weather gets cold, and what was young in spring grows unmercifully old.