Ode to Autumn

2012-12-03 14.04.34xsmall

Autumn came in fits and starts this year–the first cold, grey, rainy days of the year arrived at the end of October and then just as I was ready to start hauling out the firewood, sunny days and temperatures in the 80s returned in November. It was as though summer and fall were going round after round in a sparring match. But after an unseasonably glorious Thanksgiving weekend, with dinner in the garden, olive harvesting, and sunny trips to the beach, the rains finally arrived in earnest.

Letting go of summer always makes me a little wistful–no more walking outside to eat that burstingly ripe tomato right off the vine or sitting down for a sunny breakfast of sun-warmed luscious stone fruit, but at the same time I appreciate the distinct transition between seasons and all the memory and ritual that’s associated with it—the tidying away of summer and the preparations for the cold days ahead.

The last few weeks have meant wrapping up the harvest, planting all the winter crops, and mulching the soil with a thick layer of straw (which always makes me feel as though I am tucking the earth into a cozy bed for the winter.) The pantry is filled with canned goods and the smell of fermenting plum brandy.

One of my farmer/philosopher heroes, Masanobu Fukuoka, wrote about the importance of the dormant months of winter as a time to sit back and be “lazy.” Apparently during the “leisure time” of winter, ancient farmers in Japan left behind Haiku. I love the idea of having a dedicated season for writing poetry!

At the moment, my “poetry” seems to be more at the stove than on the page. The change of season has meant saying goodbye to all the simple, fresh dishes served in the garden and ushering in the complex, slow-cooked, hearty meals—mushroom ragout over creamy polenta, braised greens eaten by the fire. How quickly the smell of fresh basil and tomatoes, with the hum of bees buzzing in the background has given way to caramelized roasting root vegetables with the beating of rain falling outside.