I’ve heard it said that we Portlanders live for the three or four weeks of balmy sunshiney summer we eventually get around to in August.  I suspect for many of us that’s true – only in Portland have I witnessed such a dramatic change in behavior due to sunshine.  Suddenly, people are out everywhere doing everything and wearing very little.  It’s neat to see (sometimes more neat than others),  but the California kid in me gets bored with warm and sunny as quickly as my popsicle melts, and I find myself skulking around in the air conditioning waxing poetic about what’s coming next.

Because this Portlander?  She lives for fall.

photo by the incomparable Shannon Hannon. Click through for her work.

And fall is coming.

Isn’t that the best combination of words you’ve ever heard?  No phrase is as sensorily evocative for me as “fall is coming.”  A change in the wind, a chilly day, a grimace from a sane, warm-weather loving friend, and I’m in an altered state of giddy apple cider drunk anticipation.  I can smell fall – cinnamon and woodsmoke, dried leaves and fresh pumpkin, wool and late tomatoes and bales of hay – number 2 pencils and new shoe leather and pure anticipation.  I love it so much I write basically the same blog post every year in an attempt to convince you that you love it too.

By far the greatest thing about this coming darkness is the huddle.  The days get shorter, the clothes get infinitely cuter, the air gets cooler, and people start to touch again.  Suddenly, pairs walking on sidewalks will link arms to fend off the wind.  Hands will be held, no longer sticky from sweaty afternoons and berries and cotton candy.  Couples will creep to the same side of the bed again, after months of fan-assisted languishing on opposite ends of unbearably cozy mattresses.  Dogs and cats will be invited back on to laps.  Blankets will be shared.  People will huddle.  It’s the loveliest thing in the whole of the world.

This fall, I want you to live it – to smell it, taste it, embrace the heck out of everything and everyone.  Engage in those nutty hayrides and silly rituals and that fabulous color palette.  Plunge your hands ungloved into the ooze of gutted pumpkins – bake something that smells like home – spend hours marveling at the impossible many colors of leaves.  Meditate on the folding phase of the seasonal cycle put in place by an infinitely creative and scandalously beautiful God.  Cozy up to Him, cozy up to everywhere.   Breathe deeply.


  • Tam August 31, 2011 at 7:24 am

    Yes yes yes yes! My very favorite time of year! And my favorite word for it? Autumnal. Just rolls off my tongue like it been waiting MONTHS to be said. Too bad I can’t wear half my awesome coats due to this supposed “perfect” weather in San Diego. Boo for sunshine in the fall. The sun should be ashamed of itself.

  • Judy August 31, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Or, borrowing an advertising term from Pier 1… WonderFall!

  • jazznjava August 31, 2011 at 9:31 am

    I wish I shared your passion for fall – especially when you describe it like that. I used to – I’m a Boise gal. Fall in Boise is magical. The leaves crunch under foot, the changing colors of the trees stand out against the bright blue sky, and clothes are cute and can be shown off. Fall in Portland is the beginning of 9 months of dreary, wet and depressing gray skies. The leaves are soggy and stick to everything, never crunching. The changing color of the trees is dulled by the neutral gray sky. And potentially cute clothes are covered by rain jackets.

    I wish I loved fall. But instead it sets off a bit of panic in me. It turns out I’m solar powered…and don’t hold a charge very long. I desperately want to not dread Portland’s gray skies. Because everything else about this place is perfect!

    • Liesl October 2, 2011 at 9:01 am

      Oh my gosh- I have been trying to voice this same sentiment to anyone who will listen to my negativity when they bring up the greatness of autumn. Exactly, perfectly said. Now we deal with it. sigh….. the colors and fashion and smells and all that are just distraction tactics for this gal who can’t wait for the first very warm spring day where I put on a white, eyelit dress and lay on the green grass and tan my legs. We can do it, Jazznjava!! 🙂 I’ll drink a hot, honey latte and knit today in your honor.

  • thischickadee September 1, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    We are kindred spirits, my friend (though I don’t actually know you, only of you through the wonderful Shannon Hannon). Well, at least kindred blogging spirits. I picked up on fall in the air, as well, and can’t wait for it. I hate shorts.
    Your writing is lovely and I hope you have a crisp morning to enjoy soon!

  • Lauren September 3, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    Welcome back huddling and cuddling…

  • Jen September 21, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    On most everything you write I want scream “Amen, Yes! Thank you. Beautiful. And she read my heart”…but here is where we differ. I am a NW girl born and raised…fall has not been my friend. I’m trying but it’s taking a lot. 🙂

    Here’s my silly little anti-ode to a “Northwest Fall” for you:

    Fall oh fall, you are the death of that long awaited freedom of summer we just barely got a glimpse of. We just broke in those flip flops and stopped bringing jackets “just in case”. We slept with a window breeze in little to nothing for those two months and now we will fire up those dirty smelly furnaces again, bundle up under covers, and close off the fresh outdoors. I will miss touching, because now we have layers of clothing and scarves and coats and gloves and blankets between us all. I feel nothing against my skin but heavy layers of fabric. And those crisp fall leaves and hay bales are now soaking wet rot hiding that mud puddle that just sent water creeping up our jean leg six inches. Oh fall, as you usher in the darkness that has our eyes barely remaining open at 5pm, you bring rain and the cold and send everyone inside their caves until the day we see life try to rear its head again…and then we wait, mostly impatiently for those glorious two months when we will live free again!

    Hoping maybe my dismal expression of fall will possibly cause a sort of “I’ll show you” effect and bring the best fall in years…but I’m not holding my breath. 😉

    • karyn September 21, 2013 at 7:28 pm

      Ha! I love this. We can still be “Amen!” screaming friends, even though you are clearly wrong on this issue. 🙂 I prescribe for you a pair of quality rain boots (wet jeans are TERRIBLE), a few strands of white Christmas lights (early – why the heck not), a fireplace, Good Earth Original tea, pumpkin bread in the oven, and long bundled up walks in the woods, where the tree cover is heavy and the rainfall feels less like a burden and more like the chills you get from good first kisses.

      Of course, I’m hugely glad that some of us celebrate summer – otherwise, goodness, how dismal. May we keep each other’s spirits up in our less ideal seasons.


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