Waiting for Fall in the South

A Southerner's lament as we impatiently wait for fall to start.

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It starts around the weekend of the first college football game.

We want to call it fall, but that’s in August so everyone knows it’s not really fall.

Then there’s Labor Day, when the rest of the country can declare it to be fall but we are still sweltering same as ever. A Southerner's lament as we impatiently wait for fall to start.

September is not fall.

Even with kids in school (where they have been for weeks anyway), the official first day of fall comes and goes with no sign the season is actually coming. There may be a nip in the air in the mornings, but the afternoons remind us that fall is still far away.

Something starts to happen in October.

Finally you can begin to sense the tension in the air between light and dark, summer and fall, life and death.

It’s almost like a vibration, like the energy of fall is just sitting there, waiting to burst out.

A Southerner's lament as we impatiently wait for fall to start.
October in the south. Is that a bit of yellow? Probably not.

But even then burst doesn’t feel like the appropriate word. It’s more of a trickle to begin with.

The first trees start to turn; Bradford pears were the first I noticed. They’re useless, horrible trees except for the fact of bringing the first blooms of spring (and their attendant allergies) and the first blush of fall.

These early trees don’t change all at once; the color flows in slowly from the top, so that you can see the tips turn red before the rest of the body. This happens with other trees, too, so you get awkward half orange, half green trees, making you wish you could paint them, help them along.

We wonder if we’ve gotten enough rain for there to be good leaves this year.

We are silently jealous of New England friends, already reveling in peak autumn while our thermometers are still topping 80 and our leaves are still mostly green.

Our leaves will never rival theirs, but our anticipation is just as great.

A Southerner's lament as we impatiently wait for fall to start.
We swelter at the pumpkin patch in fall in the south.

This is the time of year when we really pay attention. We notice the day-to-day change in the trees on the way to work. We take in the view of the mountains, straining to see the changing color in the hills. We’re tempted by long drives in the car past our favorite views once the leaves finally start to turn in earnest.

And just like that it’s over, the leaves start to fall and turn brown and that is part of the season to celebrate, too. Great leaf piles raked up, destroyed and raked again until your arms burn.

You never know what to wear. Even in the height of fall a sudden warmer day can happen, rendering your sweater too much. We excel at the use of layers. Our kids don’t quite get it yet and will swelter in long sleeves and shiver in short in equal measure through the season.

Fall still somehow manages to be a reward for making it through the heat and humidity of summer, a beautiful pause before the unpredictability of winter.

We look for omens in fuzzy caterpillars and persimmon seeds, but the signals are always mixed. No one really knows what will happen.

So we hold on to fall as best we can. Get outside. Embrace the change. Remember that more is coming. The best we can do is to enjoy it while it lasts.

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