“The summer was over at last, and nobody could deny any longer that the autumn was definitely there. It was that rather sad time of year, when for the first time for many months, the fine old sun still blazes away in a cloudless sky but doesn’t warm you, and the hoar frosts and the mists and the winds begin to stir their faint limbs at morning and evening with the gossamer, as the sap of winter vigor remembers itself in the cold corpses which brave summer slew. The leaves were still on the trees and still green, but it was the leaden green of old leaves, which have seen much since the gay colors and happiness of spring that seems so lately, and like all happy things, so quickly to have passed. The sheep fairs had been held, the plums had tumbled off the trees in the first big winds, and here and there in the lovely sunlight, too soon enfeebeled, a branch of beech or oak was turning yellow, the one to die quickly and mercifully, the other to perhaps hold grimly to the frozen tree and to hiss with its papery skeletons all through the east winds of winter until the spring was there again.” T. H. White, The Once and Future King.
For me, autumn IS a rather sad time of year if I let it get to me. It definitely makes me moody. I feel restless and a bit anxious and eventually resigned to the fact that my short Alaskan summer is over. I am restless, not because I am bored, but because there seem to be so many outdoor projects yet to be done and my mind has a hard time settling on which to do first, or next, or at all. I am anxious because time is running out for completing projects I had thought I'd get done during the summer. The length of the daylight shortens; the angle of the sun gets lower; there is a chill to replace summer's warming sunshine, the beautiful flowers are going or gone. In addition to that, the political campaigning heats up and all that rhetoric, confusion and frustration can be really depressing. It all is such a drain on my normal level of optimism.
Yet, because I AM an optimist, I look to that glass that seems to be draining below half full and manage to find ways to fill it up again. There is harvest from the garden that I have had to wait all summer for. Hand-picked spinach, chard, broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini are included in many home-cooked meals. I revel in the flavor and texture and cling to the memory of them when I am forced to choose from supplies provided in the grocery store over the winter. Clinging to the memory is not so much regret that the past is over as it is hope and anticipation for what next summer will bring.
The beautiful colors of the flowers in the garden were captured in photos, and now I look for the beautiful colors of fall - the turning leaves, the bright berries. The Eternal Artist exchanges the painter's pallet of pink and blue and bright green for oranges, reds, yellows, browns and "leaden green". The mountains become purple and white. The sunrises and sunsets take on the colors that are unique to the equinox sun, as do the lakes and streams.
As the number of hours of darkness begin to outnumber the daylight hours, I realize I can again see the stars that were so muted by long days, with Auriga and Gemini coming up over the eastern mountain top well before midnight and Orion showing himself in the south. The harvest moon will be here soon, shining brightly all night long, getting ready to make the coming winter white landscape more striking as the months progress. Although the sun takes its brightness and warmth below the horizon at this northern latitude, it will also send us the aurora to be seen in the deep black sky against the brilliant stars and planets.
It is raining today, so perhaps I should turn away from the regret over the end of summer, and turn my energy to making my indoor space cleaner, brighter, more inviting. Potted red and pink geraniums are blooming in the window. It's time to get the winter herb garden started.