At Home Abroad: “And all at once Summer collapsed into Fall,” – Oscar Wilde
By Regina Costello
Fall time has many definitions and meanings that, on a personal level, fill me with an array of mixed emotions. Cooling temperatures with decreasing day light hours are usually what first comes to mind as we witness its’ arrival. Fall in Ireland is not as dramatic as in northeast Ohio, perhaps because our weather is so temperate.
Driving to work and elsewhere during my first Fall in Cleveland filled me with awe, with the magnificence of the bold colors of the leaves on the trees. The colors seemed to become more pigmented with each passing day until eventually they dry up and fall to the ground.
Cool evenings nudge us to retrieve soft cozy throws to add comfort in front of the fire. New excuses to go shopping for comfy sweaters, fleece leggings and furry boots too. Our terrier, although equipped with her own warm coat of beautiful hair, gets her own shopping list from my daughter, Fiona, that includes the latest fashion in snow boots and a flannel coat.
Many of these preparations coincide with a new school year, a new beginning of new challenges. This year will be particularly challenging as we continue to manage our lives during the pandemic.
With the arrival of Fall comes welcome changes in our food chain too. Memories of blackberry and crab apple picking from my childhood whet my appetite for a home-made tart. These days, demands for pumpkin spiced lattes from the kids follow me as I exit the house.
The aroma of seasonal pumpkin and pecan pies entering my local bakery feels good to the soul. Roasting the harvested root vegetables of parsnips and turnips make tasty sides to the Sunday dinner.
Autumn, a New Beginning
Autumn can also refer to maturity and a new beginning. Wallace Stegner, in Angle of Repose writes, “Another Fall, another turned page: there was something jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year’s mistakes had been wiped clean by summe.r”
Maturity brings peace, and for us humans, it comes with age and every passing Fall. As I get older, I find that I am less bothered or concerned about fruitless thoughts that plague many of us during our younger years. I find solace in this maturity with its’ ability to forgive myself and others, enabling me to turn the page.
My mind set is different, stronger and more self-reliant. I am more focused on the here and now taking comfort in the gifts I have in life with my husband. I look forward to the future and continue to rear my children as best I can, in the hope that they will continue to evolve into kind adults who function well and contribute to society.
Fall can be a sobering time for a number of reasons. Another characterization of Fall is its’ reference to death in nature. My father died in the Autumn and so thoughts of him bring to mind mixed emotions at this time of year. It reminds of Patrick Kavanagh’s poem “Memory of My Father.” Kavanagh writes about old men he sees, that in some capacity, bring to mind thoughts of his father:
Every old man I see
Reminds me of my father
That man I saw in Gardner Street
He stared at me half-eyed,
I might have been his son.
Every old man I see
In October-coloured weather
Seems to say to me:
“I was once your father.”
The Comfort of Emotion
I lived that poem in the months after my Dad’s death and many times since. When I see a certain expression in an old man’s face, notice a particular gait in an old man’s walk, or observe a glance in my direction with kind, warm blue eyes, I am filled with emotion that also provides comfort, in the gentle reminder of the loving father that I was lucky to have for so long.
As Summer once again collapses into Fall, like you, I plan to make the most of the season, before the ice cold of winter is upon us, forcing us indoors and preventing socialization. In my home abroad, our little patio is now Fall friendly, with soft cushions and throws on comfortable wickers to accompany a roaring fire in the pit. Walks in the local Metroparks with friends and Ashley by my side, busy scurrying hither and thither, chasing the colorful leaves will continue until the weather forbids it. A new kind of Fall at home abroad.
*Regina is a Graduate from the National University of Ireland, Galway and a Post Graduate from the National University of Ireland, Dublin. She is the former Curator of the Irish American Archives at the Western Reserve Historical Society, former Executive Director of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument Commission and former Executive Coordinator of the Northern Ohio Rose Centre. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Mayo Society of Greater Cleveland. She can be reached at rc*******@am*******.net