Autumn came early this year. Normally we don’t get peak color down in the southwest corner of Vermont until Columbus Day weekend. But this time you surely don’t need to look at any foliage map to know that it is here. It may be early but it is the most spectacular display many of us have ever seen. The long wet August created just the right conditions that combined with these early frosts have given us the most tightly hanging vibrant reds and oranges imaginable. So often by the time the color gets down to us the leaves are rough and ready to fall and one big wind storm sweeps it all away in one fast dramatic hour. But this year, the leaves are still flexible and leafy, only they are bright and shiny and ready to star in cheerful travel brochures for years to come.
I have always been an autumn kind of girl. I am drawn to the bawdy burlesque show that comes and makes its theatrical loud entrance and then leaves the same way, all at once, amidst the drama of howling winds and bent trees. The crowds are left wanting more and there is a melancholy to the days just after and before the holiday planning has begun. The quiet pause with the lonely looking trees and taste of woodsmoke hanging in the air offers a bittersweet afterglow tinged with just the memory of color.
But it’s too early and we haven’t closed out summer around here yet. Last night the air was more than chilly so Hannah, visiting for the weekend, ran out to get the rest of the tomatoes off the vines before they froze there forever. She came in with a peck of almost ripe tomatoes of every stripe. There were Tigers and Brandywines. The SunGolds were finished, but the Black Russians hung on til the end. Our windowsills are full now of tomatoes sitting in the warmth of the house holding out for a little sunshine to finish their work. We have a pot of chili on the stove made from goo gobs of all those fully ripe tomatoes. Our mouths are rough from all the tomatoes we have consumed so now we cook them in pots and eat them soft and hot in cassoulets and soups. If the afternoon sun is warm enough we will eat chili and cheddar bread out on the terrace and I will try not to look in the direction of the garden. It fed us well, but it never looked like anything I imagined it might. There were never neat rows or the harmony of symmetry in that simple plot. The chickens did the weeding, so the understory was always there. And the sunflowers mingled amidst tall old fashioned tomatoes in a kind of noisy looking goofy dance that looked like maybe the woods had taken up residence in a fat almost rectangle in the middle of our yard. The thing never aspired to elegance, but I didn’t quite expect this crooked renegade either. The lavender and tomatoes never quite got the hang of one another. Now my little gypsy garden looks sad and tired with millions of leaves hanging caught in the lofty tomatoes cages whose fire engine red seemed so cheery in May. Summer is over and autumn is here. The house glows from all the light filled oranges and reds just outside the windows. There is a fire in the hearth and pots bubbling on the stove. Petty soon we better dig up the garden mess and turn over the soil. Because winter will be here before you know it and the garden catalogues will be arriving with the snow. Do everyone’s endings crash into their beginnings or is it only me????