Growing up in New England where summers are hot and humid, fall was a welcomed gift. I suffered through summer to get to delicious clear skies and cool, crisp, comfortable air. I enjoy when the seasons change, but summer to fall will always be the favorite.
Outside in autumn
A man named Mr Shippee did yard work for us. Some of my warmest memories are of him raking leaves onto a tarp and letting us jump in them! What kid in a temperate region doesn’t love jumping in leaves?!
After we played in the leaf pile, he’d bundle up the tarp and put it in (more like on) the wheelbarrow. Then we’d get on top and ride to the brush pile at the farthest corner of the property. What a thrill to ride on a wheelbarrow!
When I was even younger than that, I had a babysitter named Joycie. In fall we would go next door to the old and untended remnants of an apple orchard. We’d pick up the pathetic little apples that had fallen on the ground and go sit in our driveway. She said if we rubbed them on the surface, we’d make applesauce. This was magic to me as a pre-schooler.
Being outside was my greatest pleasure. When the days got cold, though, I’d hunker down in the sunny rooms of the house, one of which was my bedroom. I’d sit on the wide windowsill and read or color in the warmth of the sun.
When I was older and gone, my mother used my room as a greenhouse. She stuffed it full of geraniums, orchids and African violets. It was glorious to sleep in there when I came home!
The other sunny room was the tv room. There was a couch in front of a huge picture window, and I would lie like a cat on the top of the back of it! My interest in solar energy was certainly sparked by these two rooms!
The beauty of branches
My mother was an interior decorator. She was also an artist in everything she did. She tirelessly and joyfully decorated our home, and I think the change of seasons was a creative relief for her.
In fall when the leaves were at their brightest yellows, reds and oranges, she’d cut branches, spray them with some sort of preservative, and decorate with them. They became centerpieces and focal points in the kitchen, living room and dining room. She always found branches with interesting lines, and each piece was visually stunning.
Some of the most beautiful centerpieces she made were simple bowls or baskets of pinecones. An elegant gold-painted bowl filled with rustic pinecones sounds like a paradox, but it was a perfect fit for our formal dining room. I don’t think it was the vessel or its contents that made them so pleasing, though. Her artistic eye and use of scale and proportion made everything fit together perfectly.
I think – no, I am sure – these parts of my childhood greatly influenced my adulthood. I am drawn to warm, sunny spaces on chilly days. I bring in dried flowers, seed heads, seedpods, grasses, and branches for decorating when the season of fresh cut flowers is over. My favorite jobs have been greenhouse work. It paid to sleep with all those plants in my room! I even built a passive solar greenhouse addition a few years ago.
If I had hardwood trees in my desert yard, I’d no doubt be raking up leaves and jumping in them. If I had pinecones, they’d fill interesting containers. Instead, I gladly and creatively compromise with yucca seedpods and wild asparagus stalks in an upcycled olive oil jar to grace my dining room table.
It took most of my adult life to realize how much of my childhood is in it. Do you notice that connection in your life?