No season will ever replace springtime from its firmly entrenched first place in my ranking of favorite seasons, but autumn follows a close second. With summer and its often unbearable estival heat behind, more pleasant temperatures prevail. And while the prospect of shorter, colder, and occasionally even somber days lies in the future, the surrounding sheer splendor fills my storage tanks with color and warmth to last through the coming winter months.
In the latitudes best known to me, which range from about 49 degrees North in Mainz in Germany to nearly 39 degrees North in Colorado Springs in the US, both spring and fall are wonderful times. I prefer to plan my trips around the vernal or autumnal months and did so again during my most recent travel to Germany.
The contrast between the thirsty, paucichromatic American West and well-watered, polychromatic central Europe that struck me immediately upon my arrival, I already commented on. I was also grateful to witness the well-understood yet still unfathomable annual pyrotechnics spectacle of disintegrating, abdicating, taking-its-final-bow chlorophyll. The tactile pleasure of crumbling desiccated leaves in one’s hand or underfoot. The sensual, spiced scent of decaying vegetation. The surprise of beholding the ever more visible silhouette of tree trunks, branches, twigs and more distal ramifications. And last but not least, the alchemical transformation resulting from the fortuitous landing of a grain of pollen on a stigma, its subsequent transport through the style to the ovary, and the ultimate product of plant sex—a mature fruit. A pear or plum so plump and ripe that its sweet juices will coat every taste bud, dribble down one’s chin, and leave one with sticky lips and fingers.
So while I sit here at my desk, wrapped in a warm blanket while scant snowflakes are drifting through the air, I try to tap into those stores of visible, audible, olfactory, gustatory, and tangible memories and carry them with me until Mother Nature will once again reawaken from her hibernal slumber.
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