The change of seasons in the valley where our Pine Street friends live is often swift, dramatic; an overnight plunge or rise in temperature, the arrival of the wind, a foot or two of snow dropping from the sky in a day.
Autumn this year has no suddenness about it. It drifts in, gently painting leaves with spots of gold and crimson, kissing the sun goodnight earlier and earlier each evening. Our friends pull on sweaters in the morning without noticing, much, how different that is from rising in the heat that failed to dissipate from the day before.
School begins. Children and teens cluster in loose groups at bus stops. They still wear shorts and tees, though the smaller ones might have sweatshirts and their elders most likely pull hoodies up and around their pink or green hair.
Gardens go for days without water and show few signs of stress. Flashes of red and gold through the green tip off their owners to ripening tomatoes and winter squash. No hard frost yet, so basil plants still offer leaves for sauces and salads.
But the most tender plants have stopped growing. They are waiting quietly for the cold nights that will take down their top growth, using the time to set seeds to ensure the next generation will rise in spring.
It’s the one gentle season here, and Franny cannot be outside enough. She is basking in the late afternoon warmth, walking in the cool mornings, reading or writing in the quiet evenings.
Like a squirrel harvesting nuts for the winter, hiding them everywhere, making sure there will always be something to nibble, she thinks. I’m stashing memories of this place, making plans for the long winter of change ahead.