Greek-American Stories: An Autumn Welcome

September 15, 2019
Phyllis “Kiki” Sembos

Summer’s heat and humidity is waning at last, and it is the season that prompts so many poets to write odes in honor of it. Autumn prompts us to celebrate the exuberance it offers. We know the season well. It is the time when we see the first school buses roll down the streets, the farmer’s markets packed up and gone, the landscapers busier than ever, a time when a hot cup of tea with honey is more welcome than iced tea or lemonade. But, there is more to autumn than the human activity.

The nearby parks now have paths strewn with dry leaves, fallen acorns, and pinecones, and as summer melts away the trees of green turn russet, orange, maroon, and bright yellow. The evenings call for that spare blanket at the foot of the bed and knitted cardigans are taken out, aired, and made ready for that early chill.

In the garden, the hydrangeas have turned to a faded blue and rose tint, and I’ll bring them indoors for the dining room table before October takes them away. I believe there is no other place where autumn spreads her colorful cloak as widespread and as pretty as here in the northeast. The New England states, too, enjoy autumns as beautiful and as colorful.

And, soon, we’ll be looking for a pumpkin for that first pumpkin pie. Hopefully, my daughters will help me with that chore.

Thank goodness that there are still places untainted by developers’ greed, where hundreds of trees are uprooted and destroyed to be replaced by multiple dwellings with exorbitant rents.

Finally, the weather allows neighbors to greet one another with a smile and a ‘good morning’, or ‘hello’.

There are still places along the Atlantic coast where idyllic fishing villages look much as

they did two hundred years ago. Of course, autumn isn’t all prettiness and play time. It brings with it a list of work that needs doing before the winter season sets in, and it becomes too cold to work outside. There’s trimming the lilac trees and forsythias, cutting back the hydrangea bushes, pulling out the wilted tomato stalks, gathering parsley, basil, dill, and chives for the freezer and taking in the potted plants before they die from the approaching colder days.

Still, after spring, autumn is the most beautiful time of the year. Who can resist walks down tree shaded sidewalks and lanes? The store windows feature clothes that are seasonal and practical. Brochures no longer arrive for sandy shores or faraway places but for ski resorts and warmer climates if that’s your choice. I enjoy the flyers and notices stuffed into my mailbox bringing me notices of street festivals, music concerts in the park, and church sales and events that offer food and handmade gifts.

Imagine writing and sending your gratitude and greetings to a tree. Human admirers claim to have done that and have received replies from pen pals who claim to be trees themselves.

In Melbourne, Australia, officials assigned trees with ID numbers to improve the maintenance of the trees. People did more than report dried or dangerously dangling branches. Some sent letters to them and placed them in their branches.

One person wrote, “Dear tree, Thank you for giving us oxygen, fruit, shade, and beauty. Where would I be without you to extract carbon dioxide? Stay strong, stand tall. You are the gift that keeps giving. L.”

Then, a note was found in response to that letter that read: “How are y’a, L? I do more than what you mentioned. I also give a place for nests for my friends the birds and squirrels and koalas. They perch on my arms for many seasons. My name is Quercus Alba. Oak to you. ID 1070546. You can call me Al. I’ve been here for a long time – since I was a little acorn. I’m about 180 years old. Have a good day. Al.”

Besides hugging trees, you can write to them, too. You might receive your own treemail with TREEMAIL, the e-mail of the National Forest Foundation (NationalForests.org). So, may I advise you to go out and walk where trees wave at you and ease your tensions and give you a reason to be glad you’re alive? You couldn’t ask for a better season to do it in. Happy autumn.


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