My intention is to say something about the third season, which ‘falls’ between summer and winter, but the terms ‘autumn’ and ‘fall’ deserve a little research. Www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/autumn-vs-fall (first time I have started a sentence with a web link) informs me that both terms are interchangeable to refer to the third season. Both are British in origin, but Americans prefer to say, ‘fall.’ Word smiths know the latin for Autumn (autumnus), but are at a loss to verify its origin of meaning. Autumn appears in texts dating back to the 12th century and in the 15th century ‘fall’ drops into common usage in texts as a reference to time when autumn leaves fall…no pun intended. Autumn is though to be formal while Fall is informal.
I was born in snow storm according to my grandmother and I had never experienced warm temperatures in winter until in 1984, I took a quick trip to Miami, Florida. I was amazed and was attracted to more temperate wintertime climes ever since. In fact, it has been about 15 years since I have experienced Fall. In Phoenix, deciduous trees let drop their leaves in January and here in Panama, Fall is expressionless.
However, I have had my taste of Autumn as a wonderful season. In Missoula, our streets will tree-lined with maples which put on a show each year. Raking leaves was a fun chore (much easier than shoveling snow!). The Mountain Ash tree in our back yard was problematic though. It’s delicate pinnately-compound leaf (yes, this is a term…I looked it up) often fell apart in the shedding process so instead of raking a single leaf, the tiny feathers, leaflets had to be managed, and with great difficulty. The little leaflets easily escaped the tines of the rake.
The front yard was a different matter altogether. Maple leaves (non-compound leaves!) were easy to rake and making piles of the leaves was an enjoyment. To make a high pile was a rewarding measurement of the chore and jumping in the pile was of great entertainment. To make the pile higher, our next door neighbors certainly did not mind if we also raked their yard!
In the 60s and early 70s, I remember that some people burned their leaves, but I don’t recall ever doing that. Instead, we raked our leaves into the street gutter and the city workers would come by and scrape up the wet mess, throwing the debris into a huge truck. Later, the city picked up the leaves with large suction machines. It was, no doubt, easier for the workers and more efficient, but that was one loud vacuum cleaner.
In Paris, city workers also removed leaves. Using rakes, it was a daily job, but eventually all the leaves disappeared from the grass, walkways and streets. These days, however, those noisy ‘leaf blowers’ are used. Good bye to the ‘good old days!’ Before leaves were picked up, there was always the relaxing feeling of walking through a thick layer of them on a city sidewalk. Block after block, feet kicked up a cloud of light red and yellow leaves. The sound and the smell are in my mind, but faded.
The colors of Autumn are big business. Some people make annual pilgrimages to the New England area of the united States to see Autumn splendor. Other destinations are also available but wherever, hotels would be packed and roadways congested with tourists looking for a place to pull off the road to take photos. As a side note, this was also an annual trip for some Phoenicians who made trips to Flagstaff to see the snow. Traffic and parking became such a problem that the city and county suggested the possibility of charging out of city/county residents a fee.
Autumn, like all the seasons, is the time for change and turning a page. In places like Panama, it is difficult to grasp the right time to turn the page, but still there is rhythmic ever-ticking clock I carry inside of myself. The clock chimes for me this time of year as I recall a beautiful poem I learned during grade school days. I share it now as a homage to the nostalgic days of Autumn/Fall.
Something Told the Wild Geese
by Rachel Field
Something told the wild geese
It was time to go.
Though the fields lay golden
Leaves were green and stirring,
But beneath warm feathers
All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.
Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly,—
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.
Rachel Field (1894–1942) was an American novelist, poet, and children’s fiction writer. She is best known for her award-winning novel ‘Hitty, Her First Hundred Years’, but she was also a great lyricist, penning the English lyrics for Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria included in the Disney film Fantasia.