October is just over a week old, and the leaves are beginning to turn. I first saw significant amounts of warm colors on the trees along 116th, and have begun now to notice the change everywhere. This is my first fall in three years, the last of the seasons I was able to experience after more than two years in the monotonous climate of Western Africa, where, always, it is hot; sometimes it rains.
There were many things I missed when I was abroad, comprising all categories of cravings, from the material (albums, books) to the gustatory (artichokes! Subway!) to the spiritual (less gris-gris) to the climatic (snow, different colored leaves). Each yearning had its own level of virtue.
I left Africa in December, dreaming with almost masochistic anticipation of the cold of a Midwest winter, the pure white glint of new snow. I longed to see a landscape muted by white, mounded and rolling, instead of the scarred look of burnt-out cornfields, or the stubble of felled plantations. Even the grease-spotted asphalt of the airport parking garage, the loops and lanes of the highways, were to me like the brush strokes of a master painter.
Winter came and went, the first Christmas back. The New Year in Chicago; a homemade birthday cake in February. Then spring, and the return of the twins from university, the purchase of a quality badminton set. Horseshoes and bocce and all the wonderful lawn games warm weather permits. The mowing of a real lawn with a real lawn mower. Then summer, with its endless sunshine, evening bonfires, tennis matches, and dips in the pool. Fishing in retention ponds and drinking too much beer.
Now, finally, it's fall. The best smelling season. I was worried when September came and the leaves stayed green. After missing the season for three years, I'd forgotten entirely when and what was supposed to happen. But now they're changing, and the stores are selling pumpkins by the ton, and I've been eating caramel apples by the dozens. High schools and universities are holding their homecomings, shy teenagers asking shy teenagers to dinners and dances, twentysomethings sneaking drinks before games. There is reverence and revelry in the air. A calm grasp for the joy of harvest and bounty, before the sobering chill of All Saints Day, the cold of November leading us into winter. I am waiting, patiently, watching the leaves as they fall.