The Bittersweet Essence of Autumn

“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters on Cézanne

Country Road Autumn
Autumn is a time of year that for many of us, generates mixed feelings. Some of us view autumn as merely a precursor to the following months of cold and snowy misery. The arrival of autumn brings a gradual shortening of daylight hours, slowly falling temperatures, and a realization that this year’s lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are over. If, like me, you made all kinds of plans back in March for all the wonderful things you were going to do in the spring and summer, then often, the arrival of fall brings on a feeling of regret for the plans you didn’t execute, the tasks you didn’t do, and the goals that you failed to achieve. For the younger set, back to school time replaces the carefree summer days and nights of time to be spent at leisure.

Yet there are joys and pleasures to be found in the autumn months. The changing colors of the leaves paint pictures of breathtaking beauty not found in spring and summer. The cooler days and nights mean less reliance on air conditioning and a savings on our electric bills. The holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving occur in the fall. On Halloween, kids get to dress up in scary costumes and go door to door asking for treats that will up the sugar content of their bodies (hmmm, maybe that’s not such a good thing after all.). Then on Thanksgiving, we all can stuff our bellies with roast turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and a myriad of other goodies.

And for us gardeners, fall gives us one last chance to plant a garden. It’s still not too late to plant cabbage, leek, salsify, parsnip, garlic, spinach, kale, mustard, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, lettuce, and other greens. If your garden didn’t grow so well this summer, then fall is your second chance to do it right.

Colorful Fall Vegetables

So while we can’t completely ignore the bitter part of autumn, perhaps we can soften it somewhat by focusing on the sweetness that also exists.