The Owner of Autumn
Down here in the south, the camellias often bloom in February. Like boutonnieres for snowmen, they fill the grey air with remembered colour, heralds of the cold-ending season at the door. In March, the perfume of confederate jasmine is as heady on the cobblestones of Savannah as the open doors of Guerlain on the Champs Elysees. The tulips appear in April, painterly swaths of yellow and pink. And there comes a perfect day in May when the whole of creation declares that the bluebird south surely owns the season of Spring.
But if your soul looks for Autumn - the autumn of legend - full of orange pumpkins and white ghosts, Pendleton blanketed hillsides of colour, red red apples and cold-nosed dogs, chowders, spiced cider and pie, the crash of the sea against a cold rocky coast - then you must set your course for the northeast, for that’s where it certainly lives.
On the way to Maine, I stopped off in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to find twenty foot tall jack-o-lantern men surrounding the town square. They grinned malevolently down at the top of my head, their long black fingers reaching out for my coat as I passed. I sat in a cafe window and watched as one crimson maple leaf caught the hem of a breeze, floating down the orange street in search of the harbour.
In Camden, Maine, after a waterfront cup of clam chowder, I wandered gold leafed streets that glistened like jewelry in a fine mist of rain. I met the smile of a wet Bernese Mountain Dog. As tall as my waist, with velvet ears. I brought back a sack of local apples and made an apple pie that afternoon, rolling out pie crust whilst gazing out at a lake whose face was encircled by the maple leaf scarf of fall.
Just as one day was ending, I drove out to the tip of a fir green peninsula to find Castine just as I’d left her, glowing pink in the last rays of the sun. Grand weathered houses still stand on the headland. Their windows, like the eyes of the sea captains who built them, stare out past the wind-whipped waves to the horizon beyond. As the sun dips under the rose coloured sea, little white lights begin to glow in the windows of the charcoal grey houses and the October wind whistles past my ear like a tea kettle. It isn’t difficult to imagine Hawthorne’s poor Hepzibah Pyncheon drawing a curtain in her seven-gabled house. Or to hear the faraway hoofbeats of the headless horseman as he rides closer and closer to where I stand.
I began to think of home.
I have brought back as much of that fabled autumnal spirit as I could carry.
The Songwriter is now fashioning twenty foot tall pumpkin men for our garden, and I am baking pies.
But I know if I want the genuine article, it does exist.
At the top eastern tip of this country.
Painting above: Village Square, Castine Maine by Tom Nicholas
Find more of his work HERE