My wife Polly was born and brought up in Central California. I was born and reared in west central Illinois. We respond to September very differently. In fact, we regard the whole autumn season differently.
For her, September means the start of her favorite season. She greets it with joy and enthusiasm. For me, its a time of splendor suffused with the knowledge that winter is on the way.
For native Central Californians, winter means fog. Growing up in Fresno, Polly experienced the tule fog of the Great Valley. This is an overcast of clouds which rises and lowers without ever really going away. The sun goes unseen for days, even weeks. The temperature hovers in the low 40s. The air is full of trapped wood smoke from thousands of fireplaces and particles from agricultural burning. Planes dont fly, and driving is hazardous.
Mean weather and depressing but ironically, the fog protects crops. Its clear nights that produce the frosts and freezes.
And the winter rains fill the reservoirs and build a Sierra snowpack that will provide water in the spring to keep them filled.
On the California coast, where we now live in retirement, the winters are mild with only a little rain and fog. The average temperature is in the high 50s which is why our campgrounds and RV parks are usually near capacity with trailers and fifth-wheels of snowbirds, weather refugees from the northern U.S. and Canada.
So my wife has no deep dread of winter the way that I do. My internal system has too many memories of snow and cold. Polly cannot conceive of thirty below zero. I walked from Blaine Avenue to Galesburg High School on South Broad Street in such weather. I understand what wind chill is. Ive been frost-bitten. I love London in January.
Thus, the shortening days and slanting sunlight of September affect us quite differently. Some part of my reptile brain starts whispering warnings about winter. I feel like I should be chopping firewood or ordering coal or getting out storm windows. Locating my cap with earflaps, finding my galoshes. Retrieving my winter coat from the back of the closet to be cleaned. A sense of losing summer invades my very bones. (Even though it was 106 degrees just last week in San Luis Obispo only 12 miles away!)
Polly sees September as a time for making fresh apple pies. Over the years, shes converted me to her way of thinking (we had our first over the past weekend). One of the blessings of our location is that we have a rich variety of apples grown just five miles from our door. But the cider is much sweeter and lacks the tang of that I used to drink in Illinois autumns.
For Polly, September and October are the most glorious months of the year. Summer isnt really over for most native Californians until Thanksgiving, and then they shop all the way to Christmas.
For me, September was crisp nights and warm days GHS football on Friday nights and Knox games Saturday afternoons, Sunday drives and ice cream. Field corn being harvested. Shivering in a polo shirt on the way to school. Staring out the window when I got there at a sky so blue it almost hurt your eyes. My teachers were frustrated by the effort of getting summer-feral students back into educational harness.
We both were to know that frustration; September continued to be a school month for both of us. Polly became a kindergarten teacher; I became a secondary teacher, then a college professor. (I still have school dreams in August and September.) Weve both been retired for years, but that is one similarity in our responses to September.
Perhaps the biggest difference is that Polly now considers Pismo Beach her home and totally accepts its weather and seasons as her life. I, on the other hand, still have Galesburg as a part of me and always will.
Do you suppose thats why GHS and Knox hold their "homecomings" in the autumn of the year?