I opened the door, leash in hand, to walk my golden retriever Gracie and was hit in the face with the bitingly crisp morning air. Each blade of the lush green grass was encased in a translucent white sweater. The leaves on the shrubs were tipped with a frosty brush. The bird bath, full from several days of rain, had a layer of ice on the surface. As I looked up and down the street I noticed that all of my neighbors were running from house to car with their hands in their pockets trying to maintain whatever body warmth they could salvage. As my brain registered the fact that I was witnessing the first frost of autumn, 2011 all I wanted to do at that early hour was to let out a gigantic WOO-HOO!! Many are still grieving the end of the summer of 2011 as we head into Columbus Day weekend and would disagree with my reaction.
Frost is defined by Wikipedia as “the solid deposition of water vapor from saturated air. It is formed when solid surfaces are cooled to below the dew point of the adjacent air as well as below the freezing point of water.” Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes not so much.
Why was I celebrating? Gracie has spent the last two months a miserable pup. She has allergies. With the first week of August each year comes red irritated eyes and inflamed ears, continual scratching, panting and an inability to sleep. Each year the allergies progress bringing worse symptoms for a longer period of time. It is now October, we are both exhausted fighting the weed elements that grow in the field across the street. Many a night I am reminded of those vibrating beds that used to be in motels in the ‘60’s where for a quarter you could pretend you were a newly tinted can of paint put into the machine to vibrate!
Living in a beach community where the population increases tenfold in the summer months I have a different perspective on summer. After suffering many cases of sun poisoning as a youngster, my days of slathering my porcelain white skin with baby oil and lying out to fry in the sun are long gone. I prefer the “way off season” when I have to climb a snow bank to get to the beach, and can often enjoy it on my own with Gracie running free by my side.
I spend the summer darting cars who think my tiny street is the Daytona speedway where they can show off their automotive power slamming on their brakes when they reach the entrance to their campground. I spend the summer picking up food trash from my front yard that has been pitched from the windows of the trolley provided to transport vacationers to the beach or tossed aside by inebriated pedestrians staggering up the street . I spend my summer co-existing with the youth who use summer at “the camp” to hang in groups of ten to twenty and experiment with alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, cigars and sex.
So as not to be an old grump and leave the sand bucket half empty, summer also brings friends I only see in the summer, the reopening of my favorite seafood restaurants, the programming of our Chautauqua town especially the July 4th Parade and Illumination Night. Summer brings Gracie’s job – she is a therapy dog known as “the reading dog” where children sign up at the local library to read to her. Summer is my time for adventures. and exploration of places I have never been. Summer brings the smell of the sea, sweet Maine shrimp, lobsters, clams, and scallops in abundance. Summer brings the sweet smell of corn cooking in a huge pot on the stove, burgers and dogs on the grill, picnics and cookouts. It also brings the farm stands and farm markets with local strawberries, blueberries, melons and if we’re lucky, someone will “import” some Jersey tomatoes!
I do, however, look forward to the annual first visit of Jack Frost, Father Frost, Ded Moroz, or Jokul Frosti (depending on your cultural background). Grace is close to being med free until next August. The community returns to a size in which everyone is comfortable. We regain ownership of our grocery store. Traffic returns to manageable numbers. The kids go back to school. Our little Chautauqua town goes into hibernation and begins planning next summer’s season.
Fleece and flannel (not to mention long pants) return to my closet. The smell of pier fries, pizza and the spun sugar air of cotton candy is replaced by the crisper scent of apples, cider and pumpkins. The corn on the cob we enjoyed so much over the summer becomes the dried corn stalks we use to decorate for Halloween. All of the sudden the standard ingredient in recipes seems to be butternut squash and I begin to crave a Philadelphia centered brand of spiced wafers to be dunked in milk.
First Frost, Columbus Day, Leif Ericson Day, Autumnal Equinox, whatever you want to call it, there are signs of great change afoot! While I grieve the loss of things that make summer wonderful, I welcome the things that make autumn different, but wonderful as well. In a few months there will be little white flakes falling from the sky and clinging to the earth. The transition to Maine winter will be complete. This season too has it’s beauty and wonders. Then there is “Mud Season.” In other areas of the world it is known as “Spring.” I’m still working on finding the reasons for joyous celebration of that one…
Life is about change and about embracing the best each change has to offer!