As measured by the weather, this was the first true weekend of fall. Here in Madison, it was grey and dreary, and it seemed to be making an honest effort at being chilly. I put on some of my favorite warm fall clothing, and most of the time I felt over-dressed. Still, there’s no doubt now that things are changing. It will be cooler, soon.
We spent the weekend doing fall things. On Saturday, my wife and I took the kids to a local apple orchard and pumpkin patch. There, we picked late raspberries, walked among the orchards, and tried to find pumpkins that were suitable for jack-o-lanterns. It was a hard summer for pumpkins, alternately too dry and then too wet. We saw some beautiful large orange gourds out in the fields, and when we turned them over they had all mostly rotted almost completely through. We did manage to find two small ones that wouldn’t be all that good for carving, although they were good for eating. At home, we turned them into a thai-based pumpkin soup and garlic pumpkin seeds. We used the last tomatoes from our container garden as garnish for the soup, which was also flavored by the last of our home-grown red peppers. The soup was a hearty meal on a rainy, cold day. We’re still munching on the seeds.
Not many people know that my degree is in writing poetry and fiction. I don’t do much with it now except embellish some sales presentations with a turn or two of phrase. A good friend of mine from my writing program has actually gone on to do some wonderful work. Anne-Marie Cusac appeared today at a local rite of fall, the Wisconsin Book Festival. I went down and enjoyed her reading from her recently published novel in verse, “Silkie.” It’s a story about a tragic love between a woman and a mythic beast that transforms from seal to human and back again, and she read it well. Afterwards, I stopped by Darren Bush’s house to help maintain the gunwales on a solo canoe he had loaned me recently. I still owe him some labor on the paddle that I used to scratch the gunwales, but this is a job for even colder winter weather that won’t yet come for some time.
We’re all making transitions now from summer to fall. For most of us, this means that we’re moving from outside of ourselves inward. Even being outdoors now is more contemplative than a purely recreational undertaking. It’s not for nothing that poets write about forests of falling leaves, stands of dried corn, and orchards. These things are perfect metaphors for changes both visible and invisible. It’s a good time for reflection, for harvesting the last fruits of summer, and for putting away the warm-weather toys for the season.
We know that things are changing on the retail front as well. Recent record high temperatures have now turned more seasonal. More people are coming into the shops and are looking with more than bemusement at fall and winter goods. Some of the shops that we’ve been in have put out hot cider, and people are actually drinking it.
Here’s a nod to this season of transitions, and we hope that you find your place out in it.