Autumn: Smells Like Domesticity
Autumn is finally here in Minnesota. A bittersweet melancholy unfurls itself and settles into my psyche. I become more introverted. I am cooking and baking. The house fills with the smells of freshly baked bread and shepherd’s pie. Windows and screens get cleaned, car tires get checked, and perennials get trimmed.
I get ready for the long season when color morphs into gleaming white and my reading stacks finally start to go down. It is biological and comforting – this nesting en route to hibernation. It is the signal that soon it will be okay for me to spend hours on scanning old photographs, finishing sewing projects from three years ago, and reading anything I can get my hands on. Sleep is now more than necessity – it’s recreation. Snuggling under duvets and blankets of fleece and flannel – that’s my idea of paradise.
My husband and daughter would be the first witnesses for the prosecution, if my lack of interest in domestic duties ever came under fire. I am not a domestic diva. I do housework resentfully. I’m hit and miss on sending lunches out the door. My biggest victory this year was teaching my daughter how to make a meal or two on her own. I am, however, creepily organized and a massive de-clutterer, but only because the thought of dusting, sweeping or wiping around one more piece of junk we don’t need, will make my head explode.
My household members are hoarders-in-waiting. He’ll ask why his favorite ratty t-shirt is in the rag bin. She’ll ask about a lost toy, triggering a lecture on how she’d be able to find things, if she’d just pick up after herself. I got rid of that toy weeks ago, but I tend to be a bit sadistic when I’ve spent the week cleaning up a trail of socks, dishes, science experiments gone awry, and neglected toys, which I vacuum up with glee. Good-bye, miniature poky Legos from hell.
Fall is the one season when I embrace cleaning and baking and finishing up painting projects. Cooler temperatures raise my energy level and I regain the ambition that burned away in the intense drought we called summer. We pick the last bushels of tomatoes, dig up carrots, watch our grape vines begin to droop. Squirrels frantically collect their supply of everything, shrieking at each other as they cross paths.
I’m digging out the bins of photos that I have intended to deal with during every winter in the last decade. This year will be the one! My optimism is always greater when I’m not sweating and fighting off invasions of box elder bugs and wasps. All the camping gear has been cleaned, rolled up and stored away. The wading pool and garden tools have been sprayed off and wait disconsolately by the back door to be shoved up in the garage rafters.
I’ve lived in several states where there are no definitive seasons except hot, hotter and windy hot. My temperament seems better suited to Minnesota or any place that has average annual temperatures in the 40-50°F range . Rain or extreme cold does not depress me. Unrelenting heat blanches the happiness right out of my bones. My family emigrated from England to the United States in the late 1950s. I am first generation American and I think the cold and sometimes damp weather is still very much part of my genetic makeup, like black tea and perennial gardens and an affection for bizarre humor.
The length of my reading list for this autumn is impressive, even for a bibliophile. This year I intend to revisit books that have affected me at a core level. Mostly because I’m getting that middle-aged forgetfulness and can no longer reference these books in my head anymore. It’s a refresher course of Harper Lee, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, Toni Morrison and Jhumpa Lahiri. It’s contrition for reading low brow books all summer long.
And so, I embrace the chilling temperatures and begin to reflect on the year behind me, sinking into the luxury of being able to sit still, to take care of where I’m at and to let out an exhale before a long winter’s rest.