I don't know which one of us said it first, but we both said it. Last night Warren and I were driving a few miles north to one of our favorite ice cream stands in a small village you reach by roads that run alongside farm fields. It was early evening, the sun was starting to do magnificent things with the line of clouds along the western edge of the land, and there was a farmer starting to harvest the corn crop for the year. We could see the dust rising from the combine way off that way; trucks to haul the grain were parked tail to nose on the country road next to the farm.
Bringing in the crops is the surest sign of fall we know in these parts.
As we sat on the church steps near the ice cream stand (church steps we sat on first in 1972, eating ice cream from the very same stand), we talked quietly. We noticed that, unlike high summer when the lines are ten or more deep, we were the last two customers of the evening. The stand closes September 30 and we agreed it was probably the last time we'd be there this year.
I make no bones about it: fall is my absolute favorite season. EVER. Winter is a distant second. I love fall not for its commercial cuteness ("Pumpkin spice latte!" Not.) but for its finality: winding down the natural year, bringing the outdoors to a close. My gardens are starting to shut down—I spent part of yesterday morning and the same today trimming and cutting. I might (might) get a few more tomatoes.
We still have warm weather and are likely to have it for some weeks yet, but the sunlight slants now rather than come on strong high overhead. The heat of the day evaporates into cool evenings. Morning fogs are not unusual this time of year, highlighting every spiderweb on every bush. Last weekend was cold and rainy; I spent it inside making and freezing black bean soup for the winter ahead.
The Jewish year begins in the autumn. The High Holy Days come at the time of harvest, with Sukkot following hard after. This is a time of self-reflection and renewal, a time of reconciliation and of making peace with one's own shortcomings. For me, it resonates with the ending of the gardens and plantings: time to reflect on what we brought in, what we could have done differently, what we hope to be and do next year.
"The fields are coming down."