Friday, September 2, 2011

Notes on a Mundane Morning and Signs of Approaching Autumn. . .

My summer notebook is not all about homeschooling, though I am enjoying writing about that; it is about my summer. I’ve meant jot down the notes and activities and thoughts and impressions of my days. And sometimes--because it’s fun years down the road to look at the actual events of a particular day—this means writing about the mundane details, like a blow-by-blow account of what happened on a morning. Take this morning for instance. . .

I walked out the door into the crispy air early this beautiful sunny morning and set out to find the little auto shop where I’m going to have my car’s oil changed and a few minor things done to it. When I left, I didn’t expect to enjoy a drive all over town, but I did, thanks to Google Maps, who sent me waaaay out in the wrong direction. (Or maybe it was that I typed in the wrong address. But, no, it can’t be that!) Whatever the case may be, I was late to my car appointment, but I really enjoyed sipping my coffee in the early morning sunshine as I cut back and forth all over the far western streets of town.

I thought I had left my phone at home, but when I pulled over to check my bag for it, there it was. I called the shop, and the receptionist laughed and gave me the correct directions. So, I headed back across town the way I had come. After all of that driving, the shop was not far from where I live. And what a great place! I don’t think I’ve ever been to a car maintenance shop where every single person working there seemed so nice and friendly. And I realized that they are going to have to do a lot of things wrong to lose my business. Niceness pays.

One of the men in the shop gave me a ride back home (and will pick me up to take me back to the shop when my car is ready), and we chatted, both of us loving the clear sunshine and cool morning temperatures we’ve been having. And as we drove along, talk turned to Oregon football, as it often does in this town. “Are you going to watch the game?” he asked. “Of course!” I answered. (The game? LSU vs. Oregon. Both teams are ranked in the top three in the nation.) And we began to talk football. I always laugh after these conversations. If the fans could coach, we’d never lose a game, you know!

I came back inside my house and was struck that it looked like a hurricane had swept through. Odds and ends were strung across the living room, dishes littered the counter, books sat everywhere, and there was just general untidiness. It struck me how a bit of stagnant mess makes a place seem so much more uninviting. So, I set about tidying the house and let in some light and air, and, sure enough, the entire atmosphere changed. I like my little house! (Thank you, Lord, for this happy place to live.)

I sat down to make a checklist for the day: Go for a nice walk. Buy a few food items. Be home around 1:00 because my niece and nephew will come. Call my kids to give them the latest update on the big birthday bash we’re giving my mom on the coast next week. Be ready to leave town by 2:00 p.m. (with Aaron, my niece, and my nephew) to head up the highway for Roman’s 6th birthday party—a barbecue at a park!

I can’t wait to see my grandkids—all four of them—today! And Monty’s family, too (I love his mother!). And it will be lovely barbecuing and playing in the park on this pretty autumnal day. I know it isn’t officially autumn yet, and I’m also not willing to give up sunshine and summertime activities because we are certain to have many more days and even weeks of warm or hot weather. But there’s no escaping it. Summer’s grip is beginning to loosen and autumn is seeping in around the edges. Signs of the imminence of fall abound.

Mornings are not just cooler now, but they have the slightest edge of crispness to them. And sunshine isn’t reaching my back patio until after 10 in the morning, whereas it seems less than a month ago I would walk out back to sit in the morning sunshine with my coffee. The apples on my backyard tree are fully grown and ripe, and many of them fall to the ground each day.

And the spider webs! What’s with the spider webs around here?! I have never walked face-first into so many huge spider webs in my entire life. Each time this happens I am sent into a panic, batting at strings of web that cling to me as I dance and screech (where there are webs, there are spiders!). It’s gotten so bad that, now, when I walk anywhere outside, I take an old broom with me, and I hold it straight in front of me and move it up and down and back and forth to take down any webs in my path. I must look a sight to onlooking neighbors!

A friend and I took a walk along a nearby river path last week, and a long section of the trail was lined with blackberry bushes. About half of the berries were ripe and juicy that morning—another sure sign of approaching fall—so we picked and ate some of them before resuming our walk. Last evening, I walked along that trail again and noticed several couples filling buckets with berries. I asked how the picking was and received a cheerful reply: “Great! There are masses of beautiful berries! Grab a bucket and come on out!” And I will in the next day or two because picking berries is such a pleasant autumn activity, and I’d like to make blackberry jam this year.

When I think of autumn days I can’t help but recall our home in the high desert. Autumn there was about insuring a good supply of wood for winter, gathering round the first fire in the woodstove on a chilly—even frosty—morning, enjoying chocolate chip pumpkin muffins, cooking a big pot of cheddar chowder on cold evenings, setting Cinderella pumpkins on the front porch next to our green door, raking up the Ponderosa pine needles that fell and covered our yard.

There wasn’t a deciduous tree in sight on our high desert property, but here in my new home, there is a massive maple right in my front yard, and I’ve already been warned by neighbors that the tree drops an alarming number of leaves. My yard and driveway will be deeply covered in them, I am told. And while I wait for the gardener to clean up the leaves, I can enjoy their color. And maybe I’ll press a few of them. I wonder what other kind of autumn nature I can find around here to bring into the house? I’m eager to find out.

Besides the pumpkin muffins, which I will certainly make (it’s a family tradition, after all!), there will be other changes in the kitchen. Vendors’ tables in the autumn farmers’ market will soon boast beautiful squashes and root vegetables, and I welcome them. Old fall menu favorites will begin to appear on my table: maple-roasted buttercup squash, apple-spice waffles for  breakfast and the freezer, oven-puffed apple pancakes for breakfast, butternut squash pizza with goat cheese and sage, chipotle-squash soup, pan-roasted halibut with roasted cherry tomatoes and butternut squash, and on and on. I’m glad, though, that summer produce wanes gradually, so we’ll still enjoy berries, tomatoes, corn, and peaches for awhile.

While fall is pushing her way in, I’m in no hurry to say goodbye to summer activities. Like hiking. Autumn weather is the best of the year for hiking, if you ask me. The mountains, hills, and trees are brightly dressed in autumn garb, and while some days will still be hot, autumn heat is meeker and drier, and the day’s warmth will be ushered in and back out by ever-crisper air. Autumn hiking often requires a warmer layer over a t-shirt or tank top, and even this layering seems cozy.

Why is it that, for some of us at least, fall is such a cozy season? Because after stripping everything to the bare minimum to keep things cool and light and fresh, we’ll gradually bring out the afghans, put on the slippers, slide a cardigan over the shoulders, eat warming foods, light a fire indoors rather than out, and generally begin to re-establish an indoor routine? Fall seems a time to wrap up in a warm blanket on a cool evening with a hot drink at hand to read a book. And what can be nicer and cozier than that?

Do you love fall, too?

And now I must carry on. Have a happy day!


  1. You and me both! (About the spiders!) Everytime I walk outside these mornings, I have my arm extended straight out in front of me and then wave back and forth to move aside the webs. I keep thinking I must look awfully silly, too! ;)

  2. Youre so lucky to experience a fall season there and I can only imagine with some envy that maple tree changing colour and losing its leaves... we have only 2 seasons here and wish we had my fave of them all - fall! oh well living vicariously through yours then!

    krissie at winterwood blog

  3. Yes, fall has always been my very favorite with it's coziness, the crisp, leafy-scented air, abundance of color and all things spiced and yummy. I'm never more thankful for the freedom homeschooling allows than when we spend a fall day hiking through the colorful woods and recording the sights in our nature journals. Ahhh. I can only imagine how gorgeous your mountain hikes will be! Wish I could come and share a meal of apple spiced waffles with you!

  4. Lovely cozy post, Susan. The yummy comforting foods, quilts, falling leaves, all things home. Although...I do love autumn...I DO NOT love winter.

  5. Only have a minute to comment, Susan. I loved this post. What a wonderful way to capture part of your day, and your thoughts on this day, for the future! I love autumn too, but am always a little sad for summer to end--if it would stay till the official first day of fall I'd be okay. But even so, once we turn the corner on summer and look fall straight away in the face, I'm fine. Here in the upper peninsula of Michigan, I love the progression of fall days. It starts with the roadsides catching fire with the red sumacs and the bright glory of the maple leaves, then moves into the richer, deeper more subdued golds and bronzes of the oaks and willows and birches and tamaracks. And I love, love, love November. Grey, still, quiet, meditative November. With the start of beautiful sunsets, different from the rest of the year's, they continue into December...pinky, purpley, take-your-breath-away loveliness! November...that hinge of quietness between the glory days of earlier autumn and the busyness of Christmas and stark white beauty of winter. I did not love November as a child. But I do as an adult. And perhaps you have to live here for years to develop that appreciation. I don't know. Only know, I love November's quietness.

    Thanks, Susan, for the cosy loveliness of this post.


  6. Happy Birthday to Roman! (I think I'm a little late.) I hope it was a lovely weekend for all of you.

  7. Funny, Stacy! I'm glad it's not just me. :-)

    Krissie, oh, I would hate to miss fall! Back in the high desert, on our property, we didn't have leaves that changed color, but we had a lot of other signs of fall. I'm glad you stop by here! :-)

    Megan, I always loved homeschooling in the fall, too. I was more aware then that while other kids were sitting in their schoolrooms we were learning, too, but we were learning in so many ways and able to go out and enjoy God's beautiful world. Nature journaling is such a *great* way to observe, enjoy, and learn, isn't it?

    Cathleen, that's funny. I loved our sunny snowy winters on the other side of the mountains, and now I'm trying to embrace the rain and grey of winter. At the least, it makes one realllly thankful for sunny seasons! :-)

    Judi, that was beautiful. I loved reading every word of it. I think every place in the world has some beauty if we will only look for it. And you have found great beauty where you are. I think your attitude honors God very much. (Why do you not have a blog?! :-) Or do you, and I just don't know about it. . .)

    Laura, actually you're not late because the party was early. His birthday is the 8th, so I will tell him that his old friend Gary says "Happy Birthday!" :-)

  8. Well thank you, Susan, for the lovely compliment, but no. I do not have a blog. I just read others! ;D You are right about every place in the world having some beauty if we will only look and see it. I remember when I was a junior in high school, and we had just moved to our new town. One beautiful fall day I decided to walk the two miles home instead of taking the school bus. As I walked along the country lane, I had an epiphany as I observed the beauty around me in such simple things as a dead, dried flower or tall brown grass with the seed heads. I remember the moment with such clarity. Astonishment that things I had never considered as beautiful, and had completely overlooked, were indeed beautiful. Since then I've lived in various places: Chicago suburbs, Michigan State University campus, South Texas, and visited many different places in the world. And truly, GOD created so much beauty in so many forms. Another epiphany was the realization that the reason I love beauty and order is because GOD loves beauty and order and put it into us, His creatures, whom He created in His image. And so He must appreciate and love it when we appreciate the beauty He created.


  9. Autumn is my favorite season of the year. I love the color changes and the crisp morning air. Though we generally don't begin to experience these signs until October, we've been blessed with unseasonably cool temperatures this week. What a wonderful way to start September! I made pumpkin muffins yesterday and will dig out some homemade soup from the freezer for lunch. I'm sure the heat will return next week, but, as you said so beautifully, "Summer’s grip is beginning to loosen and autumn is seeping in around the edges."