abundance · contentment · family · joy · laughter · love

Pumpktoberfest

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I’m sure I write about it every year, but as the wafts of
pumpkin spice glide out of my coffee mug, I’m moved to write about it again.
Fall. Fall on the East Coast. Growing up where Fall means a
certain smell of chill and decaying leaves. Kind of wet, sometimes, the piles
you’ve helped stuff into enormous black plastic bags that I’m sure are illegal in
California by now. And heaping them into the street, spilling off the curb, where you
and your little brother will take a bounding head-start and leap into the
center of the pile, the slightly moth-eaten leaves enveloping you up to your
shoulders, softening your fall and bathing you and your senses in its musty,
alive scent.
I noticed the leaves blowing last night, and here, they
sound different as they tumble across the pavement; they sound dry and tired,
each one brown and curled up on itself. Back East, they’re still half-alive
when they fall, some of them. So they lilt and are soft, and … colored. How
many people must write about the color of the leaves, the ombre fade of red and
orange and gold. There’s something about their display that radiates joy and
change and marks something miraculous, something that we, as humans, have the
unique privilege to recognize and admire.
Pumpkins start popping up on doorsteps. We hang Indian corn,
the same set of three tied to our front door for as long as memory serves, and three small palm-sized
pumpkins decorate our own stoop, before squirrels begin to bite chunks out of them, and a jack-o-lantern we’ve spent all day carving.
Fall begins the part of the year when I felt and feel most
loved and normal and inviting and, again, loved. It begins with
Halloween, and follows through Christmas (celebrated at my dad’s folks
house, who are/were vaguely Christian). The time of year when we feel swept up
in something, in something communal, town-wide, Jersey-wide.
We celebrated, we decorated, we invited, and we lit fires in
the fireplace, and ate my dad’s pumpkin pie. Our one time of year when my
family could gather together in a semblance of normality, and put on the most
average and happy face we could, and it was all decadent. The feeling of
it was.
The change of the season with its scent and sights, and the
length of the days, the incoming dusk approaching like a secret to encase you.
Creeping slowly closer and closer, but welcoming, the cool still amenable, coaxing and
gliding you home in the dim light, toward a mug of hot apple cider perhaps. Maybe
one of the gallons we’d picked up from our annual apple-picking trip, harvesting hoards of
apples, plucked in those wire basket poles that my brother and I would wave
menacingly at each other, slipping on fallen rotting apples in the
orchard, filling up woven wooden baskets we could barely carry out.
It’s the change of the light and the scent that’s been my
indicator these California days. It’s not the same as Back East, but there’s still the
aroma of crispness and an excitement.
I will begin to buy all things pumpkin, like the rest of
America. Like the pumpkin pancakes my friend treated me to yesterday, and the abomination
of flavored coffee that I’m drinking right now.
I will use the pumpkin ganache cookie recipe that was given
to me by a college roommate and make the pumpkin pie that my dad’s passed down
through trial and error – a recipe that would never, ever, include “Pumpkin Pie
Spice,” but itself includes about 8 individual spices, which I own expressly
for the pie’s creation.
Fall is a time of coming back to center, of reigning in the
resources. Of whittling down excess and getting the necessities done in the
light of day. It’s a time that rings with good memories, full, warm, joyous
memories. Fall reminds me of the earth, of how the natural world has shaped my
experience. And it tastes like the release of a constriction you’ve held the whole year, the exhale and inhale of a breath you haven’t dared relax to take. 
To me, Autumn tastes like love.

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