I grew up in the deep South, where the summers were long and hot and sticky. The heat clung to you like a second skin, one that you wished you could shed. The endless days of summer always overstayed their welcome, but once the heat finally started to recede and the cooler days of October arrived, everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief. Hot, humid nights gave way to the slight chill of autumn. No longer did the bed sheets stick to you like the skin of an onion. The whine of the box fan was replaced by the sounds of the world outside winding down for cooler days ahead.
The big oaks that had proffered shade from the glaring summer sun transformed into fiery flames that brightened the countryside. Oranges and yellows rippled through the trees and peaked just as the fall breezes grew in ferocity. Leaves glided to the ground or danced in the wind as they fell to the earth. The crackle of leaves beneath your feet provided a soundtrack for the season, a sure sign that the dog days of summer were gone for a few months at least.
Cornfields and gardens, once teaming with life, lay dormant. Wilting stalks swayed in the breeze waiting to return to the earth for the next planting season. Pumpkins basked in the glow of the sun, piled up in the bounty of the harvest, and adorned the doorsteps of those celebrating the season.
Snow rarely visited us in the South. Winter meant brown grass matted with frost, which crunched beneath our footsteps like clumps of ice spilled on the patio during those long, hot summers. Naked trees swayed in the wind, gnarled branches reaching for the sky like elderly outstretched hands. Branches infrequently fell to the ground lying in a bed of dead leaves until they too succumbed to the entropy of nature.
Winters, shortened by the latitude, gave way to glimpses of spring. Daffodils sprung to life and the roiling gray clouds of winter parted for the deep blue of the season of revival. March winds rolled across the hills gently swaying the trees as they came alive again. Green returned to the grass, flowers bloomed, bees buzzed, and the harsh chill of winter left behind a gentle warmth. Occasional showers burnished the renewal. A sense of potential pervaded every living thing.
Like a flywheel first spinning into motion, the season took hold. The daylight lengthened and the sun strayed higher in the sky and kept its repose longer. The warmth gave way to a persistent heat that made the shade of newly-adorned trees all the more welcome. Breezes fell still. The air, once dry, became saturated. The hot sticky mess returned sending all but the most ardent sun worshipers into the arms of air- conditioned spaces or the whir of the box fan.