A True (almost true) Indian Summer

The light drew me outside, after a nap, after a chaotic few weeks of new baby birthing and old elders dying, after a snap of cold days and frost that had me back into long sleeves and fleece vest, after looking at my writing space and seeing only chaos, the light called. Smoky and golden, as only light can be during Indian Summer.

firstAlong with the light, it’s the shadows that capture me, deep and mysterious.

As the Farmer’s Almanac says, Indian Summer comes after the first frost, and while we’d had spurts of late fall warm days in previous years, the frost hadn’t proceeded them and that frost somehow or for some reason, changes the light. The shadows deeper, everything a little fuzzy. Roses bloomed on the back fence.

Everything needs cleaning before winter really hits. The fence mended, the gardens cleared out and mulched, the volunteer trees here and there that have sprouted in random spots, the strawberries mulched, and the spent tomato vines pulled up and put into recycling. The list is daunting.

roses-3“A moving, cool, shallow polar air mass is converting into a deep, warm, stagnant anticyclone (high pressure) system, which has the effect of causing the haze and large swing in temperature,” so says the Farmer’s Almanac.

I don’t really know what any of that means, what I know is the shadows and the colors are mysterious. One year, maybe my freshman year in high school because I’d just stepped off the bus to walk up the lane, I saw a brilliant spread of red leaves, stopped and picked a bunch, and continued to walk up to the house carrying my bouquet under my chin, and presented them to my mother.

“That’s poison oak!” my mother shouted, grabbing up a paper bag in which to deposit my treasure.

My head swelled up like a pumpkin. I missed several days of school. And I learned to admire the beautiful leaves from afar. We have no poison oak or even ivy in our yard, just summer detritus. I am, as of yet, admiring it from afar too.

The Farmers Almanac says Indian Summer must occur between St. Martin’s Day (November 11) and November 20. For over 200 years, The Old Farmer’s Almanac has adhered to the saying, “If All Saints’ (November 1) brings out winter, St. Martin’s brings out Indian summer.”

They may need to amend their saying now that climate change is upon us. Everything weather is a little wonky these days. I guess you could say that for people too.

The most probable origin of the term, in our view, goes back to the very early settlers in New England. Each year they would welcome the arrival of a cold wintry weather in late October when they could leave their stockades unarmed. But then came a time when it would suddenly turn warm again, and the Native Americans would decide to have one more go at the settlers. “Indian summer,” the settlers called it. Farmers Almanac

God willing, no one will jump from our bushes.

24 thoughts on “A True (almost true) Indian Summer

  1. Here I am, on the edge of the Tallgrass prairie, enjoying your writing and certainly enjoying the weather — whatever it is or isn’t called. For nine days, I wondered if I’d been a little silly to throw in all those jeans and fleece tops and such. Now, I’m glad to have them — and the jackets, by the way!

    Sunlight and shadows: they need each other, in photographs and in life.

    1. And where are you in the tallgrass prairie, my dear? The Flinthills? That’s remarkable country. And yes, weather changed fast, but hang on, it’s likely to change again!! (but I’m glad you remembered warmer clothes!)

  2. Thanks for passing on the wisdom from the Farmer’s Almanac. I knew that Indian Summer comes after the first frost but not how it got its name.The pictures are gorgeous, especially the first one full of haze and shadows. Your writing paints a picture of you interacting with Autumn from the time you got poison oak. Altogether a wonderful piece. ❤

  3. I really liked this essay. And it made me flinch when I read about your encounter with poison oak. I never had poison oak, but I used to catch poison ivy a lot in my youth. I still go into forests, but I’m cautious and won’t wander off of pathways. And, luckily, have managed to not catch poison ivy in over 40 years.

    1. The last time I had a dose of poison ivy was a few years ago when we bought this old house and I began clearing out the back yard. Yup, carelessly and without gloves. Oh well. I learned where it was…:)

  4. A very informative, down-home, conversational post, Janet. I always wondered why the Indians got the blame for the weather. Now I know the backstory. Thank you for that.

  5. Your words are as pleasant as an Indian summer day, Janet. I’m sorry to say that the story of the poison oak made me laugh, even though I know it wouldn’t really be funny. Glad you survived and lived to enjoy this Indian summer.


    1. What a kind thing to say, Janet! Thank you. Actually, while it wasn’t fun in the making, it is a funny story. And I’ll tell ya what… I do recognize poison oak when I see it. Hope your fall is going well. J.

    1. Thanks, Terri. And congratulations on all your recent endeavors. I sort of kept up with you while I lived in a whirlwind of family stuff. I am so glad you continue writing (and I saved your pdf book with tips on my desktop!)

      1. Well, “blast” is one way to put it. Lol. And it was in many ways. Loved the jet-ski and being in salt water again. Loved the big girl two-yr-old even when she’d come to my side at 6 a.m. “Up!” she’d say. Okay okay. And tiny baby was just about perfectly amazing. Yeah. It was a blast.

      1. Grin … yes I have been in a rhythm – more or less – of not spending any time at all on my blog. Today was the first I opened WP in a couple of months .. .. and enjoyed your post.
        Hope to change my rhythm soon .. and then I will be around a bit more.

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