Finding Autumn in the Sub-Tropics

We've been living in one of the warmest places in the continental U.S. for going on six years now. I never imagined myself in this environment, never yearned for this sort of climate. I am certainly not unhappy here, but I was content in the temperate landscape of my upbringing. Change brings contrast, and contrast is often the impetus for appreciation. I realized just how important the seasons were to me once I no longer experienced them in the same way.
I remember that the first year here I was entirely out of sorts. I - normally a person who loves celebrating the autumn and winter holidays - lacked enthusiasm at Thanksgiving time. It just didn't feel right. We ended up eating at a barbecue restaurant near a local beach (I did order the "Thanksgiving plate" though!). As autumn progressed I would lose my bearings, surprised at times to remember that December had arrived, and that Yule was approaching. Too much green, not enough chill! We made it through, I'm happy to say, and can report that in subsequent years I've come to recognize the far subtler seasonal fluctuations that unfold around us here. These, too, mark the various phases of the year, albeit not as obviously as in the north.
A few weeks ago we drove over to a nearby park that features a short boardwalk through a wooded area. It's one of the closest spaces available for capturing at least a few moments of what in Japan is referred to as shinrin-yoku: forest bathing. Because there are some northern-type deciduous trees scattered about (mostly maple), there were spots of bright color that helped satiate the hunger for a northern autumn.

This morning a cold front is moving through the region, bringing deep grey skies and rain showers. The temperature has dipped down into the low 50s, and admittedly I tried to "see my breath" when taking out the trash (not happening quite yet, unfortunately!). I put the coffee on, and listened to the kids squeal with excitement about the "cold." My youngest said, "Mom, is winter here!?" Yes, in this region, the 50s does start to feel like the descent of the deepest cold of the year. And in some ways it is, though I am happy to report that we will experience at least a few days that reach the 30s before spring rolls back around again. These are precious moments, indeed. We build a fire in the backyard, sip a hot beverage in quiet contentment. Somehow we manage to find autumn amidst all of this green.


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