It's hard to believe, but there are only fourteen days left until I fly back to California for the first semester of Senior Year. Here at home, the days are still long and the air is still hot; there are few if any signs of the approaching autumn. In spite of this, I can't help but think about the arrival of my favorite season.
When I was younger, still in high school, the transition from summer to autumn was always bittersweet. I freely admit that I was not an industrious student, except where it took industry to avoid assignments or put them off until later. There was usually a two, three week period at the end of any given semester where I would have to write all the papers I had neglected up to then. None of this occurred to me in late September, when even I could get kind of excited at the prospect of a new year of things to learn. This feeling, though, was usually the symptom of a passing phase. I didn't like school then, and starting it was a chore... the prospect, however, was always gilded by the oncoming scents of autumn air.
I haven't seen autumn in St. Louis for almost four years. California is full of many wonders, but a good Fall is not one of them. Palm trees only do so much for you. There's something lacking in a place where you can surf at dawn on Thanksgiving without much trouble. The season at home was a delicate time, full of subtlety. I've seen pictures of New England in autumn which I admit are breathtaking, but I think the sheer splendor, day in and day out, would numb me after a time. I prefer the quiet immolation of the sycamores on Holly Hills, letting leaves drop like little tongues of flame. Sunlight through the trees speaks of more mysterious things than one could name.
The rain is lovely, too. It's chill rain, usually, neither warm nor truly cold. It sneaks down the cuffs and neck of your jacket something fierce. Sitting inside, in a dimly lit room, one can view the phenomenon best. I remember, on some day in high school, probably in mid-November, that I was sitting at my desk in the large front room I had at the time, wearing my red jacket - my much-maligned red jacket - and doing history. I was listening to an old cassette version of 'Tapestry', by Carole King, and it was drizzling outside my window. My old room had such a wide view that it encompassed the block, and all the sycamores on our part of the street. The sound of droplets on dead leaves, audible through a just-open window, mingled with the singer and the sound of Mom doing school with a younger kid downstairs. I don't know if I realized at the time that an exceptional memory was being formed; I've often wondered if you can tell, sometimes, that what you are now seeing or hearing will remain with you forever. I can't quite explain the feeling I had right then; it was something of melancholy, something like gratitude for a warm house, a certain awareness of safety and comfort. It's one of my most vivid autumn memories.
I love the season that awaits. I'll be in California once again, but I'll think of home often, and of the sycamores. Perhaps I'll listen to Carole King, now and then, and imagine I can hear rain striking the palm trees.