It's late October. We've gotten used to adding extra layers when we go outside, and have come to expect frigid temperatures in our apartment at night. We love the golden days that come our way. Autumn has broken in nicely and is comfortable and friendly, like Donnie's sherling slippers.
I didn't feel this way a couple of weeks ago, when, having just emerged from my hospital room, I found that our Indian summer had ended. The gray skies and early sunsets gave me a sense of foreboding that I hadn't felt in years. Hormones surely contributed to my dismay--and the six days spent inside, cut off from the movement of nature. But part of it was cultural. Where were the gourds and cornstalks? Where were the tasteless (and premature) Halloween decorations? The season arrived without the trappings (at least trappings I could recognize), and so I was caught off guard. In the States, we battle the waning of the light with apple picking excursions and pumkin-flavored chai lattes. Without these seasonal rituals, I felt a bit defenseless.
"What do the French do in the Fall?" I asked a British mum at the Anglophone mom's group I attend. "I don't know." she answered, "I'm sure there's something to do with wine."
The funny thing, is that the French are known for being more closely tied to the seasons, at least in terms of cuisine. While the American symbols for the harvest are absent--no jack-o-lanterns, sacrificial turkeys, or gourd-filled cornucopia--the reality of the harvest season is more immediate. Maria and I collected baskets of walnuts and hazelnuts in our backyard. My mother brought us apples from her yard in Barron Marlotte, and last week brought chestnuts as well.
I still hope to join in an autumn ritual with actual Frenchmen. I know that must exist and they must be lovely. It's just one aspect of life in France that we have yet to discover. Meanwhile, I'll show you the nuts we've collected: