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.

27 Comments on “Autumn: Smells Like Domesticity

    • She wrote a lovely collection of short stories called “Interpreter of Maladies”. I like to include short story collections on my reading list for those days when my attention span is miniscule!

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    • I think I’m adding Catcher in the Rye to the list, too. Baby boomer writers keep referencing this book and I’ve forgotten it. My grandma told me this was the upside of aging: re-reading all your favorites and classics, because you don’t remember them!

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  1. So glad I am not the only one ReReading old books….Love your description of preparing for winter… I am looking forward to my second winter of retirement and doing some of the same things you mentioned.

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    • Reading books you’ve read before is like sitting down with an old friend. And each time you read, you bring just a little different perspective than the last time, so there’s always something new to notice.

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  2. Excellent. Harper Lee is from Alabama, you know. If you get tired of classics and need something from the lightweights/featherweights (actually the all but invisible) give Summoning The Strength a read and let me know what you think. 🙂

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    • I read Charles Shields’ biography of Harper Lee. She is a fascinating person. I do have your book on my list – it looks like it will be an enjoyable read!

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  3. Same here with regard to the weather. I love the fall, and winter doesn’t bother nearly as much as our 90-degree, 90-percent humidity days. You just can’t dress for that crap. Winter I can dress for (and I like sweaters).

    Don’t forget the fresh cornbread (with honey) and some nice chili con carne!

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  4. what a great description of fall–a bittersweet melancholy

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    • It’s a hard feeling to describe, I think. Fall makes me feel more pensive and introspective, but it doesn’t feel like a bad feeling, just a quiet one.

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  5. Hi – what a wonderful blog. You and I seem to have a lot in common, except that your house is WAAAAY cleaner. You will be an inspiration for me. I, too, come from British heritage and can’t stand the heat (though I live in it), love gardening, black tea and books. I look forward to following your blog. Thanks for liking mine today – it was hard to write, as you might imagine.

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    • Thank you! Don’t look to me for inspiration – I suspect my house is simply emptier, because I got fed up with cleaning around things! I enjoyed your post – I love it when little things like a rubber duckie trigger a memory/story – you told it well.

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  6. I have lived in a number of areas in these United States. I spent 13 years in South Carolina, with its steamy, humid weather from April to November. When it came time to choose where I was to live in retirement South Carolina was scratch quickly off the list. Besides, I hate bugs!

    Next came my birthplace of Belleville, Illinois, just ten miles from downtown St. Louis, Missouri. That got deleted from the list because of the huge population, smog and highways in horrendous condition. They call it the “Gateway to the West” for a reason.

    Finally came Oregon & the Pacific Northwest. No bugs! No violent storms. Little snow or ice and thunderstorms that would have a Southerner declaring, “That’s not a thunderstorm”! It’s always green here mainly due to the 8 months of rain we get. Again, rain is a relative thing. Let’s just say that if you wear spectacles and look up you’ll get them wet 8 months out of 12. Oregon is an outdoorsman’s paradise. There is no such thing as a straight road in Oregon. There are twisty curves that either go up a mountain or down a mountain. It’s beautiful and a photographer’s dream.

    Now retired for two years my daily routine included rising at 3 a.m., showering and beginning breakfast. I’m single an quite an adequate cook so being a diabetic on a reduced carbohydrate diet is not a problem. Besides, living on just Social Security challenges my need for quality healthy foods. I manage quite well, thank you!

    I love reading, long motorcycle rides with my camera onboard and hiking. Again, my health demands daily, regular exercise. It’s good for my heart, blood pressure & blood sugar levels.

    So, Oregon is my dream come true. I see more beauty around me in a week than most folks see in a year. I’m never bored, always on the internet or my computer when at home and always open to my next great adventure.

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    • I’m not a fan of bugs, either. North Carolina had the biggest roaches I’d ever seen. Loved California on the coast – could hear the seals barking all night long. Texas had scorpions. Enough said about that. I’ve grown fond of Minnesota, but the mosquito, as they say, is the state bird! Hopefully we’ll have a real winter this year, because I do love a good snowstorm (as long as I’m not driving and the power stays on). Thanks for commenting!

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      • My pleasure. I’m new to blogging and am actively looking for interesting blogs. Your clear, straightforward writing style caught my attention. I hope to visit your site more. 🙂

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    • Since I grew up in the midwest, I find that when I’m in places without 4 seasons, I have no sense of time. I always wonder what time markers people use in places without seasons, as I’m sure there must be other ways to notice change throughout the year.

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