Fall in
“Fall is in the air.”  What exactly is different about autumn air?  Having lived many years in a one-season
climate (Tucson and Tempe, Arizona), and several years in parts of Mexico (Guadalajara, Mexico City,
and Tlachichilco) that are also quite monoseasonal (my word), I sometimes forget what that phrase
entails.  It is part physical, and also part magical.  A temperature of 80 degrees should “feel” the same
at any time of year, but it doesn’t.  Here in Placerville, California, the leaves are turning, the nights and
mornings are crisper, and “something” about the air is quite different.  I’m sure a meteorologist could
explain the technical part of what makes fall air different from other seasons in regards to barometric
pressure, pollen count, etc., but for now, I’ll be happy just “feeling” the difference.  The grey squirrel
who lives in our yard has become a bit bolder, delightfully prancing back and forth across our roof,
harvesting acorns for the winter.  And, I know that the two families of deer that have spent the spring
and summer in our yard feel the difference, too.  They have completely disappeared from sight.  We
were gone for only a few days, to return with the last evidence that the deer had been there at all.  I
had planted two bright lavender chrysanthemums in two old rain boots outside.  When we returned
from our trip, every blossom had been neatly trimmed from the plants.  The deer could never reach the
tall rose bushes, but there was the shorter, rose bush by the back steps that just couldn’t keep up with
the deer’s appetite throughout the summer.  When we arrived in late April, I looked out the window to
see the doe happily munching on the bright pink flowers, savoring the buds, eventually topping off the
whole rosebush, then removing all tender leaves, carefully navigating past each thorn with her delicate,
shiny black nose.  I didn’t mind. First it was just the two does that visited, then for about two or three
weeks in the spring, no one came to visit.  Then following this absence, the does returned, this time
each with a pair of suckling fawns.  Soon after, the velvet-horned bucks started to appear in the yard  
with the rest of the family.  If we looked out the living room window in the early morning just before
dawn, we could often see that the deer had bedded down for the night in our front yard.  It was such a
treat to watch them waking, stretching their majestically long limbs, and beginning their day of
foraging.  I watched the does weaning their young, ears rotating to each side always alert  for potential
danger. They soon became accustomed to me, and instead of running away when I showed myself at
the window, they would tilt their heads, recognize me, and then  lower their heads to continue with
their foraging.   I watched the young ones prance about the yard playfully.   I watched them grow big
and healthy, their coats gradually losing their spots.  Now,  I notice that the pink rose bush in the back
has sprouted  a new growth of leaves in the past few days . It has had  a little time to recuperate.   I can
feel the deer’s absence in our yard.  The feeling of emptiness in the yard is almost tangible.  The two
families of wild turkeys that came every day to sift through the grass for seeds and insects have also
abandoned ship.  I miss their greetings as they walked up to the glass door on the back porch.  The tom
turkey would tilt his head  and look curiously at me through the glass, wondering what I was all about.  
It made me feel a bit like a creature incarcerated in a zoo enclosure.  My husband Tom says that people
have told him that the deer are still there, just hiding out now that it’s hunting season.  They have
instinctively learned to “lay low” during this season, perhaps remembering the murder of a parent that
followed the piercing explosive sound of a gun during this time of year.  The Japanese maple is still
there in all its crimson brilliance. The tall pines that surround our house are still there in all their
evergreen splendor.   Most of the plants  in the yard are still abundant with leaves and  some with
flowers.  The sparrows and blue jays and robins still come to take a warm afternoon bath in the saucers
of water in our yard, but…”something” is different everywhere.  It almost feels as if everyone, people
and animals,  are waiting, but waiting for what?  In earlier times, in colder climates, fall was a last
chance to preserve the harvest, ensuring that there would be enough food to last the cold winter.  But
now, there are plenty of grocery stores, one within walking distance of our house.  So, that cannot be
what I’m feeling.  Perhaps fall is about feeling the abundance of the harvest, gratitude for the plenty,
knowing that winter is coming, and that after winter comes a new spring, abundant with buds, and
baby robins, and fawns and  poults (turkey chicks!).  It’s a reminder that like Nature, in the spring we
are given a second chance, another try, an opportunity to reinvent ourselves, and emerge into the
warm sunlight of a pristine newness.  Like the bear who hibernates in his den, we have had the winter
to stay inside in the warm. In the winter, we spend more time studying, reflecting, mentally exploring
possibilities, dreaming of what can be.  We know that in spring we will emerge again, like the butterfly
from its chrysalis, we will emerge  with winged hopes of  transforming into a more evolved version of
our  “being,” perhaps a little kinder, a little wiser, more learned,  more humane, more loving and
compassionate.   We are like the caterpillars who sense that it is time to start weaving the walls of the
chrysalis, time to prepare for the hibernation, transformation, and the eventual emerging as a winged
creature that rides the wind.  Maybe this feeling is what fall is most about.  Maybe what is in the air is
hope, the hope for renewal and transformation,  the kind of hope that dreams of a kinder people,
people that leave the world a better place for future generations of all earth’s creatures, the kind of
hope that transforms greed into generosity, callousness into compassion,  war into peace, adversary
into friend,  destroyers into caretakers, hatred into love -- the kind of hope that supersedes all
rationality and,  with the force of faith, will and hard work,  creates a new reality where all creatures
live in harmony. Hope is in the air.