Last year in France, one of the things I missed most was the change of seasons. Located east of the icy Atlantic and south of the English Channel, Nantes has about the same weather patterns as London. When we were little, my sister and I had coordinating (not matching mind you, there's a big difference between matching and coordinating when you're 9 and 4) mauve and purple London Fog jackets. "Nantes Fog" certainly doesn't have the same lovely assonance and isn't backed by the same inveterate stereotype, but you get the picture.
A significant portion of the city was destroyed during Allied air raids in World War II. The once-ornate buildings were reconstructed in a more ascetic fashion. They are almost all grey. The sidewalks are also grey and very narrow (and most likely covered in dog shit, which makes spring especially fragrant). The streets are grey. And, in most of November, December, January and February, the sky is grey. On a bad day in January, I think I suggested living in Nantes was like living in a humid, freezing-cold, grey box filled with poop. Like I said, it was a bad day.
So, that (slightly vulgar, sorry Mom!) rabbit trail all to say that this year I'm welcoming the change in seasons like golden retriever greets its master (or anyone really... Yes Lauren, especially Bailey). After last fall in Nantes, I had mistakenly relegated lovely, apple-filled days to autumn in Michigan. It is true that fall is home to the only cultural tradition we (we Americans, that is :) can proudly claim as ours: Thanksgiving. When separated from the fallacious fable we're told in grade school, it's a holiday worth celebrating. Not only do we gather as families around in-season, North-American food - one of the only instances of true "American" food culture.. check out Barbara Kindsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - we also have managed to keep the day (mostly) non-consumer based.
This year however, I've come to discover that autumn in fact does not belong to the Mid-West. Here, just as in Holland on crisp Wednesday mornings, the market is spilling over with gourds, apples, pumpkins and - my new favorite - fresh-pressed, unpasteurized apple-pear juice.
Once a friend wrote me and asked - vu my rather transient childhood and, so far, adulthood - when I feel most “at home,” aside from being with family. I thought about the response for a long time. Actually, I still think about it. It’s a very curious question to me (and one that I’ll keep myself from rambling off on here, at least for today). I ended up telling him that I feel most at home when I am lost in laughter with someone. That pure feeling of complicity and connection makes me know that I am in a place, and, more importantly, that I am sharing being in a place with someone.
Perhaps it’s due to the paucity of such kindred folk this year that I’ve come to realize the feeling of connection I have to the seasons. Fall feels like a dear friend come to visit. Up to my elbows in cinnamon and apple peals I feel... at home.
Last night the air was full of wood-smoke and crispness. Leaves scraped across sidewalks. Sheep baaahed and jangled their bells as I walked passed their pastures (Ok, so maybe that last detail is specific to Switzerland...) and I felt snug in the rhythm of the year.
(Is it cheating that I’m writing this from Starbucks with a soy chai-tea latte?)
Here, look how lovely.
But wait, some shameless plugs first! :) My artsy-minded pals from university and I have started a literary journal (we’re currently accepting submissions!) and blog (they are all fabulous writers). You can check it out at www.swsalps.com. Also, I now have my own website where I have posted/will be posting various creative works (mostly poetry) and occasional recipes. So if you’re my mom, or if you still have free time after reading my epic blog posts, you can visit www.briannecarpenter.wordpress.com.
Ok, and now some autumn.