Did you feel it this morning, that touch of Autumn?
Those of us in the Nation’s Capital woke up to temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s – that’s in the 12-16 degree range, for my non-American readers. With low humidity and a crispness in the air, it was the first real sign that Fall is on the way. Yes, it will be hot and humid later, and yes, it will be hot and humid all weekend for those of us who did not have the possibility of getting out of town this weekend for the Labor Day holiday. However, this morning was quite the preview of coming attractions, since for me Autumn is the absolute best time of year to be in Washington.
It’s rather appropriate that this first hit of Autumn to come fell today, when the Church remembers the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist. You’ll remember from the Bible how St. John was executed when Salome, step-daughter of King Herod, asked for the prophet’s head as a reward for her dancing. Like Salome, this is the time of year when the Earth, in this part of the world, begins to drop her veils, one by one, until by Winter she is completely bare.
Now for those of you who are “Team Summer”, and who like this scrivener live in an area with distinct seasons, this is the worst of all possible worlds, I know. You enjoy being sweaty, dirty, and sunburnt. You enjoy being attacked by insects, or being stuck in transit/traffic for hours when the air conditioning doesn’t work. You enjoy the chaffing of sandals or flip-flops tearing up the back of your heels, or constantly adjusting those shorts that bunch up when you sit down. In other words, you like to suffer.
For the rest of us, deliverance is at hand.
It’s soon time for clothing where anyone can both look good and feel comfortable, not just the genetic anomalies. Drinks can be lingered over and savored, rather than rushed down before the ice melts. The food will be flavorful and filling and bountiful, not limited by the phrase, “It’s so hot I’m not really hungry.”
There will be celebrations to prepare, requiring far more attention than the three Summer holidays of Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day, which generally involve, at best, a trip to the grocery store for some burgers and buns, and not much else. Yet as Autumn gets underway, Halloween leads to Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving leads to Advent, and Advent leads to Christmas. Many of us even get Columbus Day and Veteran’s Day thrown in for good measure, just to have some extra time off or a change of pace.
Now be assured, I’m not forgetting the importance or the significance of any of these holidays, before someone starts to complain. Rather the simple truth is, Autumn is a time for celebration. We gather in the products of the land, and we enjoy the hard work that went into growing them, and we have very fun ways of going about doing so which do not involve the charade of pretending that we can still live out in the open air like our ancient ancestors did, so long as we have enough propane for the grill and citronella for the tiki torches.
No, give me the cold honesty of Autumn over the pretend joys of Summer any day. The Fall reveals character. I’m looking forward to seeing the colors of the geology and chemistry of the planet, now hidden under a mask of chlorophyll. As growing things go dormant, each leaf reveals a uniqueness belied by the uniform green, no two the same. We see things as they are, not in uniformity but in a huge range of colors and shades of colors, everything from scarlet red to mustard yellow to deep purple.
And similarly, when we can all get out of the blazing sun and actually sit down and see each other, without the need for sunglasses or umbrellas or the like, the chill causing us to draw a little bit closer together for warmth, I believe we’ll all be the better for it.