I Feel It In the Air, the Summer’s Out of Reach…
I just got back from a late summer vacation. It was a great trip. My wife and I are creatures of habit. We go to the same beach once or twice a year. Occasionally we will do two straight weeks. We spend as much time as possible on the sand near the water or sitting out on the deck enjoying the breeze and the sound of the waves. It is a very relaxing time for us both.
It has been two weeks since I last felt the sand between my toes. The sounds of the waves and the feel of the sun on my face are still easily assessable in my mind. Not tucked away yet as distant memories. Those overtaken by the realities of life that wait on us all when we return from wherever it is we go to recharge our batteries.
Last night, I was sitting out on the porch taking in a majestic sunset from my mountain here in West Virginia. The days are getting shorter now. It won’t be long now until the tan fades and the flannels come out.
Summer is my favorite time of the year followed very closely by Fall. The older I get the less I like Winter. Not a fan of Spring either. Too much rain, one minute it is too cold, then hot. Never mind the pollen that attacks my allergies relentlessly after a few months of dry winter air.
Someone decided to declare Summer’s end twice. First, the Unofficial End of Summer, Labor Day; then the September Equinox. For me personally, it stays Summer up until the leaves begin to change. There are plenty of warm days and blue skies left, grass that still needs cut and outdoor projects to finish up before the snow flies. Of course, it will not be long before the non-stop onslaught of commercialism pertaining to Christmas overtakes your local store’s garden section. Lawn mowers and weed eaters replaced by every kind of fake tree and blow-up yard decoration imaginable.
One way I try to hold onto Summer is by taking a beach vacation in September. Late afternoons on the beach are my favorite time. Stretched out in my chair with the sun low in the sky, feeling the warm breeze while watching the birds hunt for their last meal of the day. Sublime. As the vacation days slip away I savor every minute, knowing that soon the leaves back home will explode in brilliant colors all up and down the valley and summer will be gone.
I like the transition into Fall. It is usually a nice, gradual adjustment, unlike Winter. There is no mistaking Winter. When you open the door one morning to head to work and it is like you are getting punched in the face? Yep, that’s Winter. An unpalatable way to start the day to say the least.
Nothing like a crisp Fall Morning. Especially when the leaves are turning. There is something special about the way the early morning sun enhances the color of the leaves. At their peak, nothing but majestic, multi-colored, vibrant hues all around. The air feels so clean as it fills your lungs. Looking down over the valley, the same feeling that I have on those late summer days on the beach overwhelms me as I take in the view. It makes me feel alive.
Fall is flannel shirt weather. The cool nights invite the opportunity for bonfires. Nothing like sitting around a warm, crackling fire with friends and family. S’mores, camper-pies, hotdogs on a stick. Don’t forget the great conversation, the stories, reminiscing about those glory days (and not so glorious days for some hard belly laughs). Campfires are one of many simple pleasures in life that I truly enjoy.
There are the local apple festivals to attend. Fresh cider, candy and caramel apples made from product harvested from local orchards. I would be remiss if I forgot to mention my mother-in-law’s apple pie with homemade crust, heavy on the crumb topping of course.
Fall also brings the chili, stews and soups. My wife is a soup connoisseur. Potato soup, broccoli and cauliflower soup, wedding soup-just to name a few. Personally, I can eat soup year round. There is a she-crab soup at the beach that I would kill for if I had to, I don’t care how hot it is outside. Same with a good lobster bisque or clam chowder.
Then there is football. High School football is huge in my area. Living in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia, tucked in between Ohio and Pennsylvania certainly allows for some serious rivalries. High school, college and pro, you cannot escape it. We are a days drive from at least 10 NFL teams, with Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati being the closest. West Virginia University, Pitt, Penn State, Ohio State, all nearby. High school rivalries that go back decades up and down the river.
Fall also initiates the preparation for what is considered a West Virginia State Holiday in many counties. Deer season. Guns are getting sighted in. Tree stands and blinds are being set up. There are schools that close for opening day. Once I worked for a company that had opening day as an actual paid holiday in the employee contract. Of course, that did me no good as I am a rare bird here in West Virginia. I don’t hunt. My dad never did so I never really learned as a boy. That is not to say I have never hunted, I have. When it comes to taking time out if my life to do it as an adult, I usually tell those shocked at the fact that I choose not to hunt;
“When they close all the grocery stores I will pick up my rifle and hunt for my dinner.”
Blasphemy you say! There have been some that have questioned my West Virginia Heritage because of that statement. Venison is not bad plus I never turn down deer jerky so I guess that gives me a pass.
Epic views, good food, great times with friends and family. That is what fall is to me. It is not defined by a specific day, it is a feeling that catches me on a random morning on my way to work or a Saturday when I first step out onto the porch. Like one last hurrah before winter comes and turns the skies grey and removes all the colors gifted by fall.
Winter does have its moments of beauty I suppose. The first snow, the way it hangs on the trees. How quiet it is during the snowfall. You wake up one morning to a picturesque view that created itself with nary a whisper. Of course, now you have to shovel it, then drive in it. So the novelty wears off rather quickly for me. That is a piece for another day perhaps.
“Autumn Song” by Van Morrison from back in 1973 captures the essence of Fall in my opinion.
….Leaves of brown they fall to the ground
And it’s here, over there leaves around
Shut the door, dim the lights and relax
What is more, your desire or the facts
Pitter patter the rain falling down
Little glamor sun coming round
Take a walk when autumn comes to town
Little stroll past the house on the hill
Some more coal on the fire will do well
And in a week or two it’ll be Halloween
Set the page and the stage for the scene
Little game the children will play
And as we watch them while time away
Look at me and take my breath away yeah…
Now that I think about it, maybe Fall is my favorite time of the year…
E Pluribus Unum