• Fall’s subtle arrival
    September 30,2012

    Fall has moved in gently, following a glorious sun-splashed summer. Bits and pieces of color can already be discovered, as we await the full blast of reds and yellows almost ready to burst forth. A few night frosts should do it.

    But the greens already hint that this is the end of their time, not the beginning. Spring is more subtle with its myriad soft shades of green, one light color superimposed on another. A painter’s pallet would find it difficult to contain them all. And spring is full of promise — an affirmation of rebirth, an introduction to summer.

    Fall is less light-hearted than spring, more somber, more serious. Yes, there are variations of green, from dark to very dark, but the contrast in shadings is hard to detect; a long shadow seems to have fallen on the green hills, merging the colors together.

    We feel the change of the seasons on our toes and the backs of our necks and begin to replace open sandals with proper shoes and pull out drawers to search for last year’s sweaters. On sunny days sweaters are cast off by noon. The sky never seemed so blue and the lake water so lively. On gray-sky windy days, fall becomes serious. We have to start paying attention to the earth’s turning and acknowledge, with some foreboding, that winter’s dark will soon enfold us. Think of the cozy fire, the drawn drapes, the lit candles, the refuge of indoor warmth, layered against the white bite of winter.

    On dark days, when memories of spring speak of beginnings, fall can bring forth the fear of endings. Nature sleeps under its blanket of dead leaves. Daylight fades early and reappears late. We hover by the lamp shade and open a book.

    Can we experience fall for what it is, its own season, neither a harbinger of beginnings nor of endings? We can take deep breaths of the special perfume of fall, inspired by dying leaves and crisp air. We can look carefully at the variations of dark green, stand still in the woods for more than a moment and watch the leaves glide effortlessly to their destiny.

    Can we allow ourselves to be in awe of the inevitability of the changing of the seasons? When all the world appears to be in a tumult, Nature, despite being assaulted by climate change, retains its essential steady rhythm. Yes, fall gives us a premonition of winter, but then, winter, will be forced to relent, once again, to the new beginnings of soft greens, longer light, and the sweet air of spring.

    Madeleine Kunin was governor of Vermont from 1985 to 1991.

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