The Fantasy of Fall in Florida
Somehow “autumn” does not seem properly used in Florida. There is a connotation in the word of flaming color, of sharp change, of hoar frost heavy on cornfields, of all of northern harvest. The sub-tropical fall is so impalpable, so much a protraction of summer, pendulous before the time of winter fruiting, that we might almost say that we have no such season. As with spring, we change our habits not so much in relation to a calendar month, as according to the storms, which are only relatively equinoctial. Our summer temperatures are seldom extreme, never reaching the 100’s and above as elsewhere in the country. But when the summer rains have ended, we sometimes have a temperature maintained in the 80’s for many weeks, and the steadiness, through August and perhaps all of September and even into October, becomes wearing like the ancient torture of the dropping of water on the head. The sky is a glaring blue, too blue and cloudless, the redbirds no longer sing, the rank summer vegetation turns, sere, and the sun goes down in a burning ball.
The sand is powder and a fine dust rises from it and coats the roadside bushes. In a temperate climate, this would be a part of summer. Here, it means summer’s end. Even the sturdy zinnias curl and shrivel. The pecan trees, water-loving, draw up within themselves and their pointed leaves are crisp. At this time, flocks of diminutive drab birds sift into the pecan trees, and cling there like dead leaves blown by a dry wind. The palm fronds are without luster. The doves mourn plaintively and the sound is tiresome. (309-310)
The second week in September I gamble on the season and plant most of my seed-beds.
Excerpt from “Fall” Chapter 20, Cross Creek a writer’s journey by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Rawlings’ description is very much like how I experience fall. Where I live in Jacksonville located about an hour and a half drive north of Cross Creek, our air conditioners relax. We don’t usually wear sweaters or jackets until late December or early January. Our vegetation is still lush because of the rains or hurricanes, not usually “sere,” as Rawlings depicts in her perception of fall at Cross Creek.
Fall in Jacksonville, late December
Now when the time of fruit and grain is come
When apples hang above the orchard wall,
And from the tangle by the roadside stream
A scent of wild grapes fills the racy air,
Comes Autumn with her sunburnt caravan,
Like a long gypsy train with trappings gay
And tattered colors of the Orient,
Moving slow-footed through the dreamy hills.
The woods of Wilton at her coming wear
Tints of Bokhara and of Samarcand;
The maples glow with their Pompeian red,
The hickories with burnt Etruscan gold;
And while the crickets fife along her march,
Behind her banners burns the crimson sun.
A golden oak in Pennsylvania, near my childhood home
*** To my friends in the southern hemisphere: Happy Spring!