Red leaves, taut skin in the cold air, water vapor as I exhale. It’s fall for sure. When I left we were caught between Indian Summer and fire season, which is to say, dry, warm and windy. It’s a different season now. The contrast between that last season and this, between the cliff and the drop, between life with someone and without—we navigate by edges, steering between them. Nothing illustrates fall so well as going to a land of perpetual summer.
Little can make me yearn for a coming season as an overdose on the current one. A week of sun-blazed temperatures and humidity like a greenhouse can make anyone long for sweater weather. Once all my clothing had spent a full day stuck to me, I realized I’d under-packed.
Before cycling, I understood seasons, but not weather. I didn’t appreciate that June doesn’t automatically mean beach weather, that leaves may turn Labor Day Weekend. I completed enough three-hour rides in the wrong clothing to learn to pay attention to the weather, not the season. I began looking at thermometers, weather forecasts, to understand that 50 and humid is different than 50 and dry.
Following the daily whims of the weather gave me an intimacy with my homes that I didn’t know before. But it also taught me how to watch the minute hand. In that, the change of season began to sneak up on me, but it also taught me how to recognize that first day that hinted at the next season. I relish that September day when I first detect that scent of fall. Just what it is, I know not how to define. Is it the first whiff of decay? Perhaps something in the way the ground holds moisture once the temperature drops? That change sits above my threshold of perception and yet below my ability to discern. It’s like wine tasting for a novice. Only I’ve been experiencing this change annually for as long as I’ve been alive.
The change of seasons has taught me something that New Year’s never could. A resolution is only as strong as will. But I can’t fight a change of seasons, at least, not without ongoing discomfort. If I try to ride in shorts and a climber’s jersey in December in Northern California, or most of the U.S., the ride will either be short or miserable, and probably both. The lesson is not to fight the change.
Leaves will cover the trail. Movers come. Cold weather is ahead, but spring is never far behind.