fall . . . winter?

fall leaves in jamaica plain; photo by salem pearce (via instagram)

I began this post a mere two weeks ago, and it’s already somewhat obsolete. Superstorm Sandy and an early snowfall knocked leaves off of most trees, essentially putting an end to the visual signs of fall. It’s already to gotten warmer again this weekend, so it’s still not quite winter yet. But I wasn’t sure about that on Wednesday evening.

But first! My original post included the observation that life is different in New England. And it’s not just the crazy sports fans and crazier accents. The passing of time is more clearly reflected in nature. There are distinct seasons — although I’m speculating about two, having experienced only two so far. It felt like summer when we moved to Boston, and it’s felt like fall for the past few months. But it’s not just a feeling: it’s looked like the seasons, too: a lush green summer with clear blue skies gave way to a bright, warm palette in the trees.

This is different from my experience growing up in Texas, where the seasons were “hot” and “less hot.” Green slowly turned into brown, which later became green again. But I spent my childhood and early adulthood thinking that we were in some ways faking it. Halloween and Thanksgiving could generally only qualify as “bearable,” and I remember spending a fair number of Christmas afternoons reading on the porch of my grandparents’ house. Chain stores stocked fall and winter clothing as a matter of course, but how many wool sweaters does one need when the temperature never really dips below 45 degrees (and that only in the middle of the night)? With the exception of the appearance of bluebonnets in April on the side of the road between Houston and Austin, the passing of time is in the mind.

first snow at hebrew college; photo by salem pearce (via instagram)

On Wednesday I woke up to a grey day with a forecast of heavy rain, but early in the afternoon it started snowing. By the time I left school at 9:00 p.m. (after working at the front desk), there were a couple of inches on the ground, and it was still coming down. First, after years in D.C. — which panics at even the prospect of flakes — I’ve never been surprised by snow before. More to the point, I’d never driven in snow before (since I grew up in Texas and only walked and took public transportation in D.C.). I made my way home slowly, feeling for the sidewalk from the parking lot to our townhouse under the blanket of powder. I kept thinking, “It’s the beginning of November.”

Compounding the already pronounced effects of the onset of winter was daylight savings time just a few days earlier. It’s now dark when I get home after class most days (which also means that I think it’s time to go to bed at 8:00 p.m.).

So it’s not quite winter yet, but it doesn’t look like fall anymore. But at least it’s not still 80 degrees, as it was in Houston today!

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