On the Passing of Summer

The last couple of mornings the temperatures have been in the low 40s (F), and I began to realize that the warmth of summer was nearly over.  The reality of seasonality struck me again—after my many years in the tropics.  I thought of all the preparations that need to be made.  The tomatoes and cucumbers we’ve been harvesting daily from the garden are almost gone; we’ll soon be diving into the potatoes and onions drying in the garage.  Our diet will change, with fewer fresh vegetables, more foods designed to warm rather than to cool.  My flowers—dahlias, tithonia, cosmos, tea roses, zinnias—are still blooming, but soon that too will be finished for the year.   I’ll have to bank the irises with bark dust and perhaps learn about digging up dahlias before the temperatures reach freezing.  No more weeding for months to come.

I’ll have to put away my bright summer batik dresses, my lightweight tops, slacks, shorts, and replace them all in my closet with woolens, sweaters.  Today I put a turtleneck under my jumper, to keep me warm.  Shoes will change as well—boots will replace sandals for a time.  My husband ordered what we hope will be the year’s supply of firewood, and has spent the last few days stacking it in the shed, for use in the fireplace. The coziness of nightly fires awaits me, as does the chill of early morning, the need to wear slippers and a warm bathrobe.  The furnace has switched on, the last few nights…waking me with its no longer expected sounds.  I’ve already begun selecting warmer nighties. 

We’ve switched bed coverings as well.  I put away my pink and white, summer quilt and replaced it with a heavy winter comforter in a maroon duvet.  My paternal grandmother from rural Oklahoma made the summer quilt, with all the birds and flowers of each US State embroidered on it.  It had been packed away in storage for decades while we lived in Indonesia. I delighted all summer in finally getting to use it and the white pillowcases she’s also made for me.  Each was adorned with an embroidered girl, wearing a tatted, frilly green skirt (made for the ‘hope chest’ my grandmother had prepared for me, a custom no longer followed, I’m sure—in her time, girls ‘hoped’ to get married).  With the comforter, we use instead a smoother, cream-colored sheet with an 800 thread count and a duvet (both, customs newer to me, with a comparative air of elitism about them)—definitely more elegant, less nostalgic.  I thought of my loving and long dead grandmother whenever I got into bed, all summer long; but the duvet is easy to clean, the bed easier to make.

What else will we need to do to prepare?  Do the cars need antifreeze?  I remember doing that, from an earlier life; I’m not sure if it still applies.  We have all-weather tires on our cars, so that’s covered.

Now I await the turning of the leaves, the spectacular colors of fall in upstate New York, the hills afire with reds, oranges and yellow, the crispness of the air.  I’m hoping that my mother’s visit in early October coincides with the peak of autumnal beauty.  The fullest bounty is unpredictable, so we won’t know until she arrives…

But I do mourn the loss of summer’s heat.  I’m a warm weather being, despite my enjoyment of aspects of the other seasons.  I love to walk barefoot on the grass, feel the dirt between my toes, twirl my light summer dresses around my body and feast my eyes on the brilliance of summer colors.  I feel a freedom in lightweight clothing, breezes on bare skin, hot sunny days, blue skies full of puffy white clouds.  The fall brings beauty and delights as well, but I’ll miss the summertime—consoling myself with the thought that it will come again…

These are not the thoughts that came to me in September in Indonesia, where the sun shines and the rains fall every day, the flowers always bloom, and one cannot even escape the warmth.  Indonesia has a different set of delights and pains, a more even seasonality, with the main seasonal differences that affected my own life being the intensity of the rainfall and the particular tropical fruits available.  I love the tropics, but these seasonal changes bring an odd mixture of nostalgic memories from childhood and an exoticism related to their long absence from my life.  Life is full.

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