it’s approaching. you can feel it in the morning air. fall. its scent lingers in the fields of wildflowers, succumbing to cooler nights, a lower sun on the horizon. the bees are desperately, frantically, trying to hang on for dear life. the mosquitoes, thankfully, are writing their wills and the cicadas are singing as if the judges of ‘american idol’ or ‘the voice’ were gathered beneath the trees, an audience of appreciators.
it’s different though.
this fall is all about numbers. covid-19 pandemic numbers. lethal-force racial fatality numbers. protest numbers. healthcare numbers. unemployment numbers. eviction numbers. payroll tax numbers. rally numbers. poll numbers. we are surrounded by a plethora of numbers with an increasingly urgent need to be aware of all of them.
there will be no relaxing inside starbucks sipping pumpkin spice lattes. there will be no apple festivals or street fairs celebrating fall. there will be no hayrides, bale-bouncing with friends on a rickety wagon. there will be no chili cook-offs or slow dance parties on the patio. this was the stuff of pre-pandemic. the stuff of the olden days. the stuff of 2019. the stuff of 1996. the stuff of 1973.
there will be thoughtfully attended protests. there will be emotional vigils. there will be testing sites. there will be virtual funerals. there will be video-conferenced schools and meetings and religious gatherings. there will be jobs sought, financial devastation for too many, unreachable healthcare. there will be speeches to listen to, about which to have hope. there will be speeches to fact-check, about which to have righteous anger.
the numbers have risen to the surface and rightfully demand our attention.
but there’s this – written one year ago: every fall, my sweet momma and my poppo would load us up in the dodge with the old wicker picnic basket and a small cooler. we would drive out east on long island or head north into upstate new york. the baby of the family with siblings already out of the house, i always had a friend along. susan went everywhere with us. we would take mad libs and gum, snacks and cans of soda and we would talk and giggle our way to the apple farm. it wasn’t like we couldn’t find apples near us; the jaunt away to apple-picking was the point. the walk in the orchard, the drive through leaves of indescribably stunning color. we’d stop at roadside picnic tables and take back country roads.
and now, a long while later, i think of those places, those times. the memories are sweet, macintosh-apple-sweet. but the yearning is real. every autumn makes me just as wistful. i think of my children jumping in leaves and pumpkins carved with silly faces. my parents and the old dodge. pies with homemade crust, hot soup and cocoa, the smell of cinnamon and caramel candles. fires in the fireplace or outside around the firepit. jeans, sweaters, boots. and apples.
and so now that the time for jeans and sweaters and boots is in the offing, i need remember. there are still quiet fires in the firepit to have. there are pies we can make and cocoa we can brew up. there are big stock pots of soup to steep. there are trails with crunchy leaves. there are pumpkins to carve, sunflowers to vase, and backroads to drive.
there are things that must be done. the numbers insist. it’s a profound time filled with information and a call to speak up, to question, to research, to, yes, wear a mask and yes-yes, to vote.
but my wistful-near-autumn heart also needs apples.
MILLNECK FALL from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood