Thursday, September 3, 2009

Last winter seemed to go on forever and I grew impatient for spring. Spring turned into an onslaught of rain and when summer finally arrived, it was an endless blast of heat. Dare I hope fall will live up to my expectations? I love early fall with its array of colors, crisp air, and bounteous harvest of garden produce.
You'll notice I didn't say I love fall in general; late fall is dirty, brown, wet, and cold. While early fall is a new beginning of school, a time to spruce up the house, gorge on ripe, juicy peaches, and take delight in nature's new wardrobe of brilliant oranges, reds, and yellows, late fall will always be associated in my mind with picking potatoes, cold hands and feet, and before-dawn to after-dark days of hard physical labor.

Early fall is a golden time. It's when grain fields ripen, bringing a promise of bread through the winter. It's a time when flower beds are putting on their last brilliant flame of colorful blossoms. It's a time of corn-on-the cob and new potatoes. It's memories, too, of my mother bottling peaches and pears. I never did quite get the knack for canning fruit, though my sisters do it and a couple of my daughters are good at it.

Along with the good memories is another memory that comes to mind every year at this time. I was just beginning the fourth grade when for some reason I woke up one morning and decided not to go to school that day. I loved school and I really wasn't sick, but I couldn't quite wake up that morning. In the rush to get six of my siblings off to school, Mama gave up on me and told me to sleep in her bed where I could watch my baby brother who was asleep in his crib so she could can peaches without him underfoot. The baby was asleep and I was hazily daydreaming when there was a loud explosion in the next room. I jumped off of the bed and ran to see what had happened. My mother and the whole kitchen was covered in scalded peaches. Peaches were even stuck on the ceiling! Mama's pressure cooker had blown up. She was crying and clearly in pain. Her dress was sticking to her skin so I helped her peel it off and used the damp cloth she'd been using on the bottles to wipe off her face and glasses. At that time popular advice was to put butter on burns, but I knew there wasn't enough butter in the house to cover her burns so I used milk, then baby oil. (Now I know plain old cool water would have been best). For the rest of the morning, though she was in great pain, she scrubbed the kitchen and I entertained the baby. Unbelievably the burns healed without leaving scars, but I was left feeling there was a reason I didn't go to school that day.

Fall brings memories of shopping for new school clothes. During my early school years this meant poring over Sears and Montgomery Wards catalogs. Later it was shopping with my younger sister and stopping for hamburgers on the way back home. Shopping for my children's school clothes was both fun and concern over the expense. I guess it's habit, but I still find myself wanting a new outfit this time of year and eyeing children's clothes in the flyers that arrive in the mail and with the newspaper.

The seasons change and this one seems to be beginning with smoky air from an over abundance of forest and range fires. Summer heat hasn't yet abated and we need rain. Still there's something in the air, a kind of clarity or hint of cooler days, rich harvests, and ringing school bells. Writers take note; store memories, jot down the subtle hints of the coming season. The best writing, just as the best memories, include an awareness of changing seasons. Add vitality to your writing by letting your readers know the seasons and feel the subtle shifts from one season to the next.


Jeri Gilchrist said...

Jennie what a beautiful picture! I love the weather of Spring and Fall. Isn't it funny how the changing of the seasons conjures up memories from our past?

Your poor mother cleaning up the kitchen with all those burns. I can't imagine enduring that. She must have been quite a lady.

Thank you for the great reminder to let the readers feel the subtle shifts from one season to the next in our writing as well. I need to be better at that.

Wonderful post!

Gale Sears said...

You tell the best stories! I love how you pull me into the story with vivid images. I will take your advise and be alert to the wonders of the changing season.