The Red Sox’ season ended yesterday, so today I switched my Red Sox cap for my Celtics one. Fall is definitely here, and fast-tracking to winter. Along with a white-throated sparrow, this morning I heard a Carolina wren singing, a weird auditory juxtaposition of winter and summer sounds.
It occurs to me that I don’t really consider fall to be a season in its own right: it’s merely the pause between seasons. Just as New England doesn’t have a proper spring, only a few weeks of muddy, buggy thaw between cold and hot, autumn is a transitional time here, a span of days for gearing down and ramping up.
Fall clothes are merely a dress-rehearsal for winter layers, and the visual palette of the season is simply a muted version of summer splendor, as if Nature turned a dimmer switch on the florid tones of July and August. The scarlet and gold shimmering from trees these days is merely a muted form of cardinal flower and goldenrod, and fall crocuses are but a wan imitation of spring ones. Autumn exists because even Nature can’t simply slam on the brakes and stop: she has to ease out of summer fecundity like a pen gradually going dry.
Fall is when we begin to practice the art of nostalgia, coming into slow realization that summer joys are going, going, gone. The fairs and festivals of fall–the apple-picking and pumpkin-carving and festive football games–all merely delay the inevitable. Fall is the season for closing up shop, for pulling up stakes, and for hunkering down. The riot of fall foliage is one last hurrah for a season already dead and a colorful harbinger for cold days already in the wings.