I have barely gotten used to the idea that the leaves on the trees are turning from green to yellow, haven’t even let myself take in the fact that they are going to, you know, FALL OFF the trees and then we’re going to be back in Stick Season again…and then, for no good reason at all, SNOW started pouring from the sky today.

Snow!

And not just a little bit of snow either. Not just snow as a nice decoration. This was BIG. Huge, fat flakes of snow—honestly the size of baseballs—blowing so hard through the air that they flew  sideways. They were mesmerizing, actually: the kind of snowfall that makes you feel you’re looking through a kaleidoscope of changing shapes, with pieces flying in from all over.

It would have been nice, if—hello!–it not been OCTOBER 18th! This is the time of year when a person is still strolling through apple orchards and bringing home a bushel of Macouns to make apple crisp. We’re still supposed to be picking the very last of the really great tomatoes off the vines. In fact, until last week, I was still going to the beach, and calling it nature’s hospital!

I take this kind of weather personally. I’m from Santa Barbara, a place where the weather knows how to behave year-round, where the earth doesn’t ever give you the sense that all of nature has gotten tired and is heading into darkness. In Santa Barbara, you just know that it could always be 72 perfect degrees outside…and that you yourself could stay young and firm with just a little bit of extra effort. It wouldn’t even be that hard, Santa Barbara whispers to you.

But of course that’s not true. Now that I live in the world of seasons, I have gotten used to the idea that things really do change, that life goes through cycles, that the light green of spring has to become the yellow of autumn, and then has to turn back again. You know, the dark and the light. The great circle of life.

Outside the sky is getting darker earlier every day, and the sunsets are brilliant crimson with huge purple streaks. Eight of the trees in our front yard are already bare, while the dogwood tree in the back yard has turned a lovely copper color and is dropping bright red seeds on the ground. The air smells crisp, the evenings are cool. Some nights lately we’ve made a fire in our fire pit, and sat outside looking at the stars, shoving our hands down into our pockets, pulling our hoods a little tighter.

Our lovely next door neighbor died after a summer of illness. My daughter’s college-age friend is battling cancer and has decided to forego further debilitating treatment now that her tumors have recurred. Another friend is in the hospital awaiting the results of tests. He sits in a room overlooking rooftops and tries to make sense of his symptoms.

I stand and watch the snow falling on the still-green leaves, coating the last great tomatoes.

And slowly, slowly I think I might know what the snow is trying to tell me: Pay attention. Hold onto the moments. Breathe deeply. Look around you. Learn to savor.

And try to remember where you put the mittens at the end of the season last year. 

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