From the September equinox to the December solstice the progression from Summer’s growth through the fall harvest and into Winter’s cold desolateness provides us with a cornucopia of vivid seasonal colors and flavors and scents collectively known as autumn.
There’s something about that first chill in the air that provides a robustness to the season. Crisp coolness filling your lungs, shocking your long lulled into the summer duldrums self back awake. It can be invigorating until it becomes downright cold to the point of breathing into something akin to getting brain freeze. As your eyeballs roll into your head you pull your hood up over and pat your hands together attempting to warm yourself back up to a seasonably comfortable level. Granted, some people will don the gloves and scarves and layers of jackets at the first 50 degree day, bundled up like Randy Parker barely able to enjoy the outdoors. That’s not me though.
Cold air has a distinct scent too beyond the whisps of leaves and early lit fireplaces that fills it. It’s clean kind of robustness and feels lighter, lacking the late summer smog that weighed it down before. The crispness is refreshing and stimulating in a way that reflects the brilliance of the colors that typically dominate the conversation. I’m invigorated by it and it becomes a driving force in my explorations of the season.
When I breath it in I’m immediately taken aback to a well worn sports practice field speckled with patchy brown spots were the grass just never recovers from season-to-season, year-to-year. A nondescript slate grey sky from overhead to as far as the horizon would allow, the only breaks in it coming from those first leafless tree tops cutting into it with bare branches. Temporary lights at the field corners glisten but barely illuminate anything against the fading afternoon everygrey. Each snare drum crack echos for what seems like forever into the distance while the precision of left-right movement of our feet against the frosted grass and hard ground gives off a softer, shuffling thud. The four count ends giving way into the deafening rhythms of the drill cadence. Cold fingers are immediately warm, chilled bodies heat up and the blare of the brass rips through the air regally.
Long practices are spent mostly under the early onset of darkness. Glancing up from the drum major’s flourishing movements guiding the performers one might catch the sparkle of Orion’s belt when the ghostly orange glow of the harvest moons aren’t dominating as they hang oversized just above the horizon. And that air, still invigorating, refreshing even as we tire through practice getting sloppy and requiring more retakes than should be necessary to learn even the simple movements.
By the end of practice as the instruments make their way into cases and the bone chilled bodies are wrapped in blankets, it’s that breeze wafting through again carrying with it the scent of autumn leaves, of chimney’s puffing away hardwood smoke and of that crisp freshness that makes the fall air so special and the memory of the time fades back into the distance .
Reawakening from a recollection high school days gone by, I breath in deeply as my adult self overlooking the mighty Hudson River and Tappan Valley. The autumn sun barely peaking through the streaked grey clouds as it struggles to stay over the top of the Palisades. The jutting rock and fading treeline cut into the evening autumn sky starkly similar to the way the hawkish wind comes up the open river cutting into my breath. It does so every morning on my wait for the train replacing the marshy wetness of late summer on the shoreline with that of an invigoration for the new day. In but a month this will be gone as the darkeness and biting cold of winter overtake it. But for a few short weeks this is a feeling I know now if I’m ever taken away from I’ll forever long for.