There was no flourish of trumpets when I rose from bed last Saturday, no popping of champagne corks, no dropping of a glittering ball in Times Square. Across the country, the first official day of autumn appeared to pass with little public notice.
Fall brings not one but many firsts, and perhaps no one can keep up with all of them. For the student, the season begins in earnest with the first day of school. For the sports fan, autumn announces its presence with the first kick-off on the gridiron. Others look to the first symphony or play of a new cultural series as evidence that fall is here. Maybe the astronomical definition of the first day of autumn, which involves the autumnal equinox and the continuing loss of daylight, matters the least to those who gauge the changing of the seasons.
I began the first day of fall as I would any other, by taking our terrier on his morning walk. Pulled along in equal parts by a little dog and the force of habit, I gave no thought to the idea that summer was taking its gold watch and retiring from our wall calendar for the year.
One of the small pleasures of autumn is that, of all the seasons, it seems to require the least fuss from us.
Summer compels us to memorable adventure, and winter, with its tinsel-covered holidays, also comes larded with high expectations. Spring, the season of poets mooning over fields and flowers, has a way of making joy feel almost mandatory, too.
But autumn appeals to me not so much because of its bright epiphanies, but the settled satisfactions of domestic routines. This came to mind on Saturday as I reviewed the day’s to-do list, which included seeing about an oil change for my car, a veterinary check-up for the dog, a trip to the grocery for weekend supplies. I sometimes feel that my life isn’t marching through middle age on the stepping stones of the seasons, but instead keeps time through treks to the mechanic every 3,000 miles, or little appointment cards mailed by the dentist and the CPA.
I returned from the supermarket with fixings for gumbo, a common way I welcome autumn across our threshold. Also on the menu was persimmon bread, a dessert we make from our harvest of front-yard fruit.
With autumn, our dinner table, like the leaves outside, darkens perceptibly — the deep brown of fresh roux, the earth-toned colors of baked goods spiced with cinnamon and cloves.
My wife reminded me that gumbo weather had not yet arrived, with the afternoon thermometer near 90 and the air after lunch as muggy as June.
But I plowed ahead anyway, mixing onions and parsley, sausage and chicken, then letting them simmer until dusk summoned us to supper.
Maybe I was hoping, through some ritual offering to Father Time, to force fall to deepen its grip on the landscape.
For now, though, I’ll content myself with cooler mornings and crisper nights, and the promise of days when the air conditioner and lawn can both fall asleep until spring.