Doesn’t everybody in New England love the fall season, even when it isn’t the most beautiful one on record? Our foliage is world renown, after all, and visitors come from all parts of the globe to admire the red and gold colors of our woodlands. Leaf peepers crowd our roadways. Actually, we residents don’t need to leave Suffield to enjoy the foliage, even in years when—as is so this year—it has been less than spectacular. On the other hand, autumn is a season of dying, in a sense, which adds to its poignancy; we enjoy every day because we know that soon a long, cold, and essentially colorless winter will be upon us.
The myth of Demeter and Persephone shows that the cycle of seasons has long been important to humankind. According to the story, Persephone spent four months of each year in the Underworld, which accounts for the barrenness of winter; her mother, the goddess of all growing things, grieved for her daughter and was thus unable to keep the world green for those four months. It’s interesting that here in Connecticut, four months–December, January, February, and March—are usually the grayest ones. I suppose we could argue about November!
Of course we need the winter rains and snows to keep the land fertile. That’s one reason the shadow of global warming is a treacherous one. And really, the world isn’t dead during the four gray months—it’s just asleep, getting itself re-nourished and re-energized, ready for another glorious spring. The Easter bunny is a pagan symbol, representing fertility; it’s no accident that he (or she) appears early in the spring. And those eggs, so carefully dyed? Another symbol of the fertility that will return when the weather grows balmier. In fact, often children believe that the bunny himself produces the eggs: some rabbit!
This has been an unusually warm fall season in southern New England. Although we’ve all enjoyed the sunshine and the moderate temperatures, we have felt that things are not quite right. A moderate winter is also predicted. Those of us who don’t ski, and those of us who are wary of ice on the roads, are happy to hear the news; but somehow there’s unease lurking beneath the surface. Time will tell whether the extreme warmth we have experienced this year is a permanent phenomenon, and only time—along with meteorologists– can tell what effect the changes will have on our plant life and ultimately on our way of living.