Friday, September 24, 2010


We have such weird seasons here in Southern California. Even so, I like autumn a lot.

Actually, I didn’t even know what seasons felt like until I moved to Istanbul back in 1991. We arrived there in early June, and the summer weather was horribly hot and humid. In late August and early September we began seeing full truckloads of coal rumble into town. I was told that coal comes down from Russia, but who knows if that was true or not. One day we heard a racket in the back yard of the apartment next door and lo, there was a coal truck backing up to the building, ready to disgorge its load of coal. The truck dumped its entire load and drove off. The kapici (superintendent) of the building grabbed a wheelbarrow and a shovel and began moving the coal down into the basement of the apartment for use during the winter.

About the same time that this was starting, the weather changed ever so slightly. We couldn’t put our finger on exactly what was different, but even without ever having experienced a real autumn I knew that this was IT! There was a feeling we needed to make sure we had enough blankets on the bed and find enough warm clothes to last us until spring. We had to make sure we had “mud shoes” – a pair of shoes worn outside in the winter that we didn’t mind getting really dirty and muddy. (In Istanbul you leave your mud shoes on the porch and slip into little soft bedroom slipper type shoes for wearing in the house.) And we had to stock up on candles to use in the event of an electrical outage. Like hibernating animals, we had to prepare our nest for the winter. There was a definite feel of “hunkering down” in the air. Probably the most dramatic change we saw was the storks in the thousands flying down a pathway right across Istanbul heading south for the winter. They too knew it was time.

I would like to say that autumn is very subtle in Southern California – but that would be a big fabrication. We get horrific Santa Ana winds that always start in September and if we are lucky they’ll die down by Thanksgiving. Not only is the wind so strong you can hardly stand up against it but also it is hot and dirty. When I was a kid in Long Beach, there was almost no housing development from the canyon passes west and on into the L.A. basin, so the winds picked up lots of dirt from the farms in the area and dumped it on us. Often at school we’d tie a bandana around our face because the dirt would get in our nose and mouth. Now, because of all the housing development there isn’t so much dirt but oh dear, are there winds! And of course it is during those windy fall months that we have all the terrible fires in the hills.

Where we live now we have a few trees that sort of turn colors – but nothing like what the people back east get. We have three big unidentified trees out front with leaves that turn bright yellow before they drop in December. It happens all at once. We can go to bed with a green lawn and wake up with a yellow lawn. It’s quite amazing. But of course if we have a Santa Ana the next day, all the leaves end up in Long Beach!

I had a picture of Jerry with a really weird background (actually a wrought-iron “Cinderella Pumpkin Coach”) which was taken when we took the little girls for a ride at the Mission Inn during one of the Christmas seasons. After I took a course in using Photoshop, I decided he’d look a lot better with a nice fall tree in the background, so with my new skills I managed to move him from one place to another. It looks like we've got an autumn, but its hardly true.

Fall is not spectacular here, and we don’t have to hunker down for it. Actually, if we get a fall rife with Santa Ana winds we just may still be in summer sportswear at Thanksgiving.

But the main reason that I like autumn is that I no longer am crazy about summer. Cool clothes like shorts and tank tops are too silly for old ladies to be seen in, so we mostly stay indoors and run up big air conditioning bills. So I’m all for autumn’s arrival.

And by gosh, it's here now! But oh, that we had trees that look like this...

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