September 18, 2007

Fall comes to Franconia

Although I harbored doubt all week, today it was unmistakable: Fall is fully here. At first I thought it was merely the start of the commercial Fall, that artificial season heralded in by the changing of the department store windows rather than by the changing of the leaves. But this year the two seem to have synchronized: The stores rolled out their inventories of warm clothing just as one started to think about needing them.

Similarly, the parks along the Main are now empty of their sunbathing lovers, and there are no more naked children splashing around with the geese on the riverbanks near Randersacker. It’s not yet too cold to go in the water, but mentally the time for it has passed. The thermometer hovers between 17 and 20 degrees Celsius (about 60 degrees Fahrenheit), which, by the Boston standard to which I’ve become accustomed, is still positively balmy, but the Franconians are a Southern people, and like Southern people the world over, they bundle up in sweaters and scarves at the first hint of cooler temperatures.

The transformation to the countryside has been a clearer sign that Fall is here, farmers knowing more about the changing of the seasons than anyone else, I guess. In just the last week all the corn has been harvested, the fields tilled, and every last apple has been plucked from the trees. Pumpkins and squash have replaced the Zwetchgen (small, oval-shaped plums) at the roadside produce stands. And in Kleinen Oechsenfurt today, the villagers were already testing out their fireplaces.

There’s something about the smell of burning leaves and pine logs that takes me back to the autumns of my childhood in Warren, Arkansas. I guess it’s because in the years since I’ve never lived someplace where people had fireplaces or where burning leaves in your backyard was allowed. One whiff of that pungent peppery scent and I felt the urge to don a calico dress and harvest something, like in all those make-believe games of “Pioneer” that my friends and I used to play when we were girls and only in the Autumn. And fittingly, I heard a marching band playing today in Winterhausen – a sound that I always associate with Fall and football. I don’t suppose I’ve heard a marching band in a decade or picked up a French horn in as many years. I should.

Fall in the country is just so much more intense than Fall in the city. In Boston I was rarely affected by the change in the seasons. There was so little Nature there to affect, that I rarely even noticed until a heat wave made my apartment uninhabitable or a Nor’easter covered the roads with four feet of snow. When I left Boston last year for W├╝rzburg, I was so worried about all the things in the city that I would miss: museums, concerts, restaurants, shopping. It hadn’t even occurred to me that living in the city, I lacked anything from the country, like brilliant seasons. Likewise, when Kevin and I first found out that we’d be moving to Alberta, I was a little concerned. Although we’d be living in a city, Edmonton is an oasis of civilization in a vast wilderness more rural than anywhere I’ve ever known. However, I’m now beginning to think that it will have its own compensations and it may even grow to be a way of life I prefer.

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