Do you know how autumn comes? It starts in the wind. The summer breeze grows hard, an edge to it which sweeps down from the north. The smells of burning leaves, of rot and decay, float on the autumn wind, leaving trails of dying summer in their path. The autumn wind freezes straight through jackets and jeans, straight through flesh right down to the bone, to the center of a person, leaving little bits of frost in the marrow of their skeleton.
As the wind sweeps over the trees, the leaves at the very top begin to turn, their rich green yellowing in the blink of an eye. It travels down, through the emerald, silky green of the tree’s branches. The leaves turn yellow, or orange, or red, or brown, and wither and die, falling from their perch aloft to the ground so far below. They are trampled underfoot, raked into piles in backyards everywhere, jumped in, bagged up, and pressed between the pages of books. They sink into the earth, dying and withering, being eaten by autumn’s quiet chill.
The air becomes colder, and without the trees keeping the semblance of summer the world begins to turn brown and yellow. Breath curls in steamy swirls through the air. Feet trudge across once green lawns, and people glance furtively at the cloudy sky, waiting for the first snow to fall and declare this winter’s realm. Autumn is the in-between time, a point in the year that is neither warm nor cold, but a sort of limbo, a waiting place.
Through September into October, that month marked by ghouls and witches, and then into November when we, here in America, celebrate the final harvest with our own fall festival, Thanksgiving. No one looks at it as a harvest festival, but in truth that is what it is. We stuff ourselves with summer’s bounty, reveling in the stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes, overdone carrots, and pumpkin pie. We gather together with friends and family to celebrate a successful summer and to prepare for the long, nighttime season of winter, when the hours of darkness grows stronger than day.
Do you know how autumn comes? It comes in a whisper, in a glance. It comes like night does, starting slow, and then here before you have a chance to blink. It steals over the world, icy hands grasping at the edges of our perception. And then it’s here, and summer is gone. Another six months, or seven months, or nine months we might have to wait to see the summer sun again.
- Julia Pillard