Monday, November 11, 2013

Seasonal reflections

Simply Living
For the first time in years, I’m experiencing a northern autumn. Everywhere I look, leaves are falling to the ground. Crimson reds, butterscotch yellows and all shades in between vie for attention as they swirl about on a chilly breeze.

Although I’ve lived in Florida since 1987, I grew up in Pennsylvania and spent 17 years on Cape Cod before moving south. After a long absence, my husband Ralph and I are back in the North, visiting our daughter and her family in western Massachusetts where, despite it being early November, there are still leaves ablaze with color.

Autumn has always been my favorite season. Before moving to Florida, I looked forward to the brisk weather that turned green to gold, red and orange. As temperatures dipped, I willingly slipped into soft sweaters, long pants and warm coats. I bought Winesap apples at local farms, baked pumpkin pie and picked bouquets of purple asters. I watched Canadian geese take flight while the white fluff from dried milkweed pods flew off on the wind. A northern autumn is a dramatic, in-your-face time of transition, so different from the more subtle signs of a Floridian fall.

In Florida, I learned to seek out softer shades of familiar hues. As flocks of white-eyed vireos flit from branch to branch and a pair of pied-billed grebes returns to the lake, I look for yellow flowers to form on the cassia bushes and for goldenrod and groundsel shrubs to brighten up the marsh.

Pied-billed grebe

The cooling weather causes golden rain trees to put on one of the most dazzling displays, changing from green to gold before bearing coral-colored seed pods. In place of apples, I keep a close eye on the burgeoning tangerine trees where green orbs are just beginning to turn orange. I pick starfruit and harvest the remaining bananas and papayas. I savor the scent of loquat flowers with their promise of winter fruit.

Picking starfruit

At my daughter’s house, I’m covered in layers. I wear long pants over tights, socks and insulated boots. Beneath a fleece vest, I have on a turtleneck shirt and a sweater — and that’s just when I’m indoors. A typical fall day in Massachusetts requires more clothing than the coldest winter day in Central Florida.

All bundled up for a November New England walk

Until I moved south, I took seasons for granted. Because I knew nothing else, I assumed autumns everywhere were like the ones I grew up with in the Northeast. Although I now know they’re not the same, I’ve come to love their differences. I like how in Florida, I have to put on a sweater in the morning but need to strip it off by afternoon. I like the way maple trees along wetlands turn brilliant shades of red, yellow and orange while the red berries of the dahoon holly glimmer against its glossy green leaves.

Dahoon holly berries

I like the way my husband can be busy planting a new crop of vegetables while his northern counterparts are putting their gardens to rest for winter, and I like how nice it feels to take a walk in the middle of the day without overheating.

Adding transplanted broccoli to the fall garden

But maybe most of all I like knowing both autumnal experiences are there for the taking. A trip to New England doesn’t provide just a seasonal display of brilliant color, crisp weather and fresh-pressed apple cider, it also gives me a chance to savor hugs and kisses from the little arms and sweet lips of my two-year-old twin granddaughters.

Cuddling with grandchildren is special

There are many reasons to travel north for seasonal changes but none as important as staying close to the people you love.

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