Keats’ poem “Ode to Autumn” has always been a favorite: “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness/Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun/Conspiring with him how to load and bless/With fruit the vines round the thatch eves run.” Autumn brings a particular kind of beauty–full, and rich like these succulents dripping with life.
Fruition. A quality that anticipates the next stage. I don’t need to spell that one out; you know what I’m talking about.
In September and October one is aware of temporality. A good time for nostalgia. For me, there is a particular poignancy to autumn: this is the season that my mother was born (late September) and died (late October). Her middle name was Autumn (she always found that a little silly).
Thinking about seasons in Los Angeles is different than it was in Ithaca, New York, where almost every fall day, the leaves were a little brighter..and then a little less, and then trees became bare. The air would heave some last hot blasts, intermittently blowing cooler and cooler until it stung your face. Back in Ithaca, I tried to postpone closing the pool until October first. Noah and I would stoke up the wood-burning sauna–which took an hour and a half–so that we could jump into the icy water and scream for 3 minutes. Our golden retriever Felix would swim for another ten, doing serious laps up and back, mostly silent except for a few official barks commemorating Season’s End.
It’s hard to know what to think about autumn in L.A., where Labor Day looks like this:
Santa Monica Labor Day Life. Not exactly the end of summer. But plenty mellow (and a little mist.)
During another September weekend, I hiked Beverly Hills’ Franklin Canyon and came across this bucolic spot:
A lake! With ducks! Pine trees! Could have been late summer in Ithaca, right?!
Well, except for this guy:
Ray, let’s call him, would not cut it in Ithaca.
There’s not much that reminds me of upstate New York or autumn here, and yet I do feel keenly aware of the time of year: A few weeks ago, many friends celebrated Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which happened to fall on the same day this year as Eid– which most of my Saudi students celebrated. (I got dates and chocolate the day after the fast!) And there was that incredible lunar eclipse. Soon, I will turn off the AC at night; I might dig out a jacket from the back of my closet. And Halloween, my favorite Holiday, is coming! The snakes unleashed in the aisle of my local CVS indicate that:
On Friday, walking to the parking lot after work, I had a classic L.A. moment: I saw something surprising and weird, and I was delighted and a bit horrified:
No one was around. Just those dummy heads and me. End of a season WRIT LARGE, I decided, and descended into the 4 O’clock underground heat of the Westwood parking garage. Had a hard time getting those heads out of…my head.
The second stanza of “Ode to Autumn” begins: “And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep/Steady thy laden head across a brook/…Thou watches the last oozings hour by hour.” A gleaner: a gatherer, someone who records. Yes, that’s autumn: recalling spring and summer in the face of winter. Collecting memories of birth and growth. Appreciating every bit of ripe fullness oozing in the cooling air.
Autumn SOCAL STYLE is a funny thing; it’s so subtle that it almost doesn’t exist. Kind of invisible. But, Dear Reader, I’m pretty sure I’ll feel it when Noah and Amanda and I go to DisneyLand for Halloween!? Nothing like Disney to tell you what the what is.
And I felt it this weekend–visiting Peggy in Claremont. Peggy and I knew each other decades ago, when we lived across the street from one another in Urbana, Illinois. On Sunday we woke up to cool air and rain. Belatedly, we covered up her patio furniture. And then the next-door cat showed up. Undaunted by the wet, the cat did not find the brown tarp to her liking.
This cat visits Peggy several times a week, asking for a head scratch and quick belly rub. I look forward to her visits when they coincide with mine. She makes me think of my mother, who was always visited by neighborhood cats from blocks away…
After a lovely cool and rainy day, I drove back to Beverly Hills, where there was a sky that Keats might have loved.
“Thou watches the last oozings hour by hour/While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,/And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.” So ends “Ode to Autumn.” There were, in fact, some birds making end-of-day twitters, though you can’t see them in the photo.
So much remains invisible, nevertheless present. Twittering, oozing, watching. Gleaning.
Wishing you a fruitful and observant season, Dear Reader. Tell me “something autumn” that you see, smell, taste, or hear this week?