Friday, April 24, 2009
This Postcard from Israel was originally written on 23 October 2005.
Whenever autumn approaches, I think of Carl Sandburg's poem, Fog. The dance between the muggy heat of summer and the mellowness of fall is done on tiptoe, like the cautious advance of a wary cat. When school starts up on September 1st, my childhood memories say "autumn," but my internal clock knows better. September, more often than not, is lived in the frayed shorts and worn-out sandals of summer. But eventually the time comes when I automatically begin making the minute adjustments in my daily routine that inform me of the approach of fall.
One of the changes is gastronomical. All summer long, I drink only ice coffee. When I start drinking my caffeine hot, I know autumn has arrived. Just as, months later, the switch from hot to cold will alert me to the advent of summer. Apparently, I am not the only one who looks for fall in terms of food. David of Treppenwitz fame has reported the season's first sighting of Krembo, and takes that as a sure sign of the changing seasons.
Other changes are sartorial. When I dust off my jeans, and dig out my Reeboks from under the pile of sandals in my closet, I know it's fall. Going barefoot on the marble floors of the house is no longer comfortable, so socks make a reappearance. Likewise, long-sleeved cotton blouses replace tee shirts. I won't need a jacket for some weeks yet; meanwhile, I enjoy the cool breeze and the slight shivers it brings.
Where I live, the humidity in summer is higher than almost anywhere else in the country. Autumn brings with it an unaccustomed dryness to the air, along with that cool breeze. I find myself drinking water not in an attempt to cool off, but to ease the parched feeling in my throat. The leaves on the trees don't turn flashy colors, but the dates ripen to deep gold on the palm trees.
In the house, first the air conditioning falls silent, then the ceiling fans cease their non-stop whirl. The sheets that were more than enough cover during the sweltering summer nights are replaced with lightweight cotton blankets. Once the fluffy comforters come out, fall will be a thing of the past and winter will have truly arrived.
All of these changes happen so gradually, it's hard to be fully aware they are going on. At first you just tell yourself it's cooling off a bit. Then one morning you wake up to a thunderstorm, and start wondering if any of last year's umbrellas are still operational. "What about autumn?" you grumble. "Wasn't it summer just the other day?"
There is autumn in Israel, but you have to watch for it. It doesn't look like the California autumns I grew up with, and bears absolutely no resemblance to the spectactular beauty of fall in New England. But autumn in Israel has a charm of its own, if you pay attention. Summer has released its sweaty grip, and it's possible to enjoy sitting outside in the gentle afternoon sun. The trick is to be aware of every subtle change, to absorb and savor it in its delicacy.
Although I've lived in Israel for over a decade, it's only been in the last few years that I've remembered to take notice of autumn as it "comes on little cat feet."