From today’s Providence Journal, my ode to autumn …
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold
Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang
– William Shakespeare
Or, as I like to say: I can think again – hallelujah!
You wouldn’t necessarily think that a kid from California would be a veritable slave to the New England seasons, but it’s exactly what I am.
I look forward to each new season the way kids look forward to major holidays and summer vacation – with longing, in other words.
In Rhode Island, late season nor’easters – the damp, rainy kind, in the middle of May – are enough to get me literally lusting for summer’s heat.
Conversely, forty degrees and drizzling in late November are enough to make me pray for snow, which I do, fervently.
Then, when I’ve had my fill of the white stuff, I start looking around the grass and shrubs for robins, or scanning the sides of the roadway for the first yellow riots of forsythia bursting from a thicket.
That said, I don’t long for any season the way I long for fall, and it really is because of how sweet the experience of having clear thoughts again is. And, amazingly, I never seem to over-sell this to myself, the way I do so many other things. I look forward to a crystal-clear morning like the one we had today, and then when it arrives it’s even better than I hoped it would be. Nothing else is like this, in my experience.
Looking down King Street in East Greenwich from the stairs near Town Hall, as I stretched before my morning run today, I saw the sun’s white-yellow rays playing off tiny waves on the flickering, dappled cove, a scene made possible by a barely perceptible north wind. And, guess what? It was OK! It was just fine.
But even better than that has been the feeling all day that I was a member of the human race, and that this in and of itself is some kind of extraordinary gift, which it quite obviously is! Whoever decided to start school this time of year knew what they were up to. Can you even imagine living in the Southern Hemisphere and starting school just as temperatures are starting to warm up after a long hard winter? I can’t even think about it.
One of the weird parts of being able to think again is the forced admission that whatever was passing for consciousness just a couple of weeks ago clearly wasn’t. Is swimming in the Atlantic at Narragansett Beach in August, especially with your beautiful wife and kids, joyous and sometimes sublime? You bet it is. But does it produce the soul-stirring mental clarity of say, today? Not even close.
How about listening to a Red Sox game on the radio while driving on a lazy country road with the windows down and the sound of cicadas in the nearby woods drifting through the windows in timeless rhythm on a warm summer night? Isn’t that pretty good stuff? You know it is! And it still isn’t quite as great as thinking clearly for the first time in months. I’m talking really clearly! Heavenly clearly! Today! Right now!
But wait, what about the inevitable Indian summer that we’ll be confronted with, doesn’t that mess all this up? In a word: yes. Consciousness is given, and it can be taken away. I have seen it happen before, and it does hurt. And there is only one thing that can take the hurt away: the next Canadian cold front to drop down past the Ocean State.
It’ll bring chilly mornings, blue skies, heavenly foliage and – oh, yeah – sweet nectar of the gods: clear thinking.
Harold Ambler, a writer and musician, is the author of “Don’t Sell Your Coat.”