That feeling came again today as it always does when the air is crisp and the sun is bright. It’s the feeling of a perfect fall day. It doesn’t matter what month it is---I’ve felt it even in July. But on those days, the feeling is only a fleeting sensation, a memory triggered by a scent, sight or scene. On a true autumn day, the feeling settles on my shoulders as surely as a cozy sweater against a chill. I am young again, crunching leaves underfoot as I travel on an imaginary journey through the Big Woods of Laura Ingalls’ day or munching a crisp apple saved from lunch to savor on my way home from school.
“It’s a sweater day,” my mother would say on chilly mornings, as the lazy days of summer began their brisk trot into fall. I loved those mornings---standing at the end of the driveway in my cardigan sweater waiting for the school bus, watching my breath puff in the crisp air. The sky seemed bluer and the sun seemed brighter as they formed the backdrop for the golden trees that lined the gravel road. Although summer clothing had a certain freedom to it, fall sweaters brought security. They were hugs and kisses and promises of a warm dinner after a long day of school.
As the fall seasons cycled in and out, a “sweater day” came to mean much more than a chilly school day. It meant picking walnuts with the neighbor kids, our fingers stained as yellow as the freshly baled hay by the barn. It meant the sweet scent that wafted from the plum orchard as the purple fall fruit hung ripe and ready from the branches of the trees. It meant cheering for the football team, eating spicy gingersnap cookies, or enjoying a weenie-roast with the church youth group. A beautiful autumn day could even put some pleasure into the painful fall chores of stacking wood or digging up the garden.
And then (sigh), I discovered that fall is also the best season to be in love. Spring is usually credited with this phenomenon, but spring love is often giddy and immature. Autumn love is mellow and warm. There’s a deep sense of satisfaction and contentment that comes simply from walking hand-in-hand along a wooded path. I knew I was truly in love during a visit to the Rocky Mountains in October. From our vantage point high on the side of a mountain, we gazed down at an emerald river rushing through solid rock and jagged cliffs. We strolled through forest paths, enjoying the display of bright color---green, gold, red and burnt orange, all intensified by the vivid blue of the sky. We breathed in the pure air scented with pine and wood smoke. The magic of the mountains had worked its wonder on my heart. My shoulders wore not only a sweater that day but a strong arm, and although I’ve worn many sweaters since, it is the same arm that encircles my shoulders today!
Autumn crowns the year. It is a season heavy with ripe fruit and brilliant color. It is harvest time---the culmination of our toil and God’s goodness. The riches of the earth are gathered up and displayed in grand style---bales of hay, sheaves of wheat, baskets of apples, shelves of canning, jars of jam. It is the season of thankfulness as we store up provisions, plans and pleasant memories to carry us through the long, cold winter. I am most content in the fall, as I gratefully reflect on the good things in my life. I can embrace the beauty of outdoors while nestling into the comfort of hearth and home.
The romance of autumn woos me still, all these many years later. I am more inclined to pack a picnic lunch and head for the country on a fine fall day than in the summer heat. Smoked sausages, spicy mustard, cheese, fall fruits, sparkling cider and hot chai tea from a thermos are perfect compliments to a day of tromping through leaves, paddling on the lake, or strolling down wooded paths as the sun slants deeply through golden trees. This was a family tradition of ours for years, and we loved to invite friends along to share one of our favorite fall events.
Although I appreciate and enjoy aspects of each season, I believe that autumn is just about perfect. I may curse the cold in January, bemoan the mud of March, or wilt in the swelter heat of July, but never do I wish away a fine fall day!