Here and there, in places I hadn’t expected, I spot the first colors of Miami fall. The red of impatiens in a flower bed. The purple of an orchid tree. The yellow of the golden rain and the pink of the floss silk. This morning I even spotted a brave new bud on a potted orchid in my front porch.
It is autumn, my favorite time of the year. In a few weeks — no one ever knows when precisely — I will be able to turn off the air conditioner and fling open the windows. I will fall asleep to night noises, a natural Muzak of breeze and cricket song. A perfume I can’t name, something herby, something musk-like, will scent the air. I will anticipate cooler weather, the delight of wearing a sweater for a day or two. I will be the envy of family and friends shoveling snow.
Miami — South Florida, really — is unlike the rest of the country in many ways, and this is particularly true at the change of seasons. Here at home, the shift is subtle and, for the newcomer or the unmindful, almost imperceptible. It arrives in the slant of afternoon light, the briskness of early morning, the many festivals held outdoors and, always and forever, the colors in the garden.
The autumn hues I know, have always known, are not the brilliant shades you see on leaves but the blooms that do best when it’s a bit cooler, a bit dryer. Elsewhere nature may be preparing to settle in for the barren days of winter, but the farmland just south and west of my home is turning riotous with winter vegetables. Heat and humidity have agreed to cede control, if only reluctantly and for a while.
I find the predictability of the seasons to be especially comforting in a world that offers no guarantees. Summer will always be insufferably hot, fall a welcome respite, winter promising and spring lush. Aside from the rise and set of the sun, is there anything else that can inspire such certainty? The fact that, in my part of the world, you have to pay very close attention to these changes makes it that much more interesting.
Yet, every once in a while I tell The Hubby I want to experience “real” seasons: the frigid embrace of winter, and the slow slide into the dormancy of fall. (Summer, I could do without.) A Miami boy, Florida born and raised, he rolls his eyes. He loves the heat and humidity, never frets over a bad hair day and can’t imagine winterizing a home.
“How many layers of clothes did you wear that January in Iowa?” he reminds me.
OK, he’s got a point. When we moved my youngest son to the Midwest a couple of years ago, I did just fine for the first two days, texting selfies with shoulder-height mounds of snow. I wore a nice scarf, new boots (the wrong kind because I slipped easily on the ice) and a cute hat. Then it plunged to minus 7, and my eyes hurt and my nose turned numb. I showed up at my baby boy’s apartment wearing every single garment I had packed, my limbs so restricted that I could barely get out of the rental car. I also developed a fixation with snow plows.
This year, as in the past, reports of ice storms and blizzards will soon fill the national news. Pictures of icicles and snow drifts, from loved ones in Chicago, Annandale, Cedar Rapids and Morristown, will ping on my cellphone. For a minute so fleeting that no one will notice, I’ll entertain the idea of life in a down jacket and wool socks. Because … because the grass always looks greener and the sky bluer elsewhere. We inevitably yearn for what we don’t have.
But that moment will pass. It always does. And I’ll sit by my pool in flip flops, content to admire the reflection of the sun on water still warm enough for a splash.