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.
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.
“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.