Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.
~ Henry David Thoreau
The Autumn counterfeited Spring
With such a flush of flowers,
His fiery-tinctured garlands more
Than mocked the April bowers,
And airs as sweet as airs of June
Brought on the twilight hours.
~Dinah Mulock Craik
When Summer gathers up her robes of glory, And, Like a dream of beauty, glides away. ~ Sarah Helen Whitman
I really enjoy the transition of one season to another, a bridge between the phases of nature’s inevitable advance. One of the ways I experience it most profoundly is when I am out working in the garden and become seized by a profound awareness of recognition–seasonal déjà vu.
After months of growing comfort, working to be in tune with the unique personality of the current season, it’s invigorating to get a whiff of the approaching season—like a good, old friend when you think you caught a glimpse of them across the street, or a remarkably familiar smell that suddenly forces a sharp, visceral recall into your consciousness. (With my grandmother, it’s certain smells of hearty “old school” cooking or, improbably, Lysol, reminding me of the process of cleaning the garbage room of the apartment building she managed with my grandfather.)
Of course, September 23 is the equinox, so we are not yet in autumn; however, we just had a desperately needed day of rain, so today had that incredible smell of wet dry grass mixed with just slightly moistened parched dirt. The plants & trees at River Myst Haven have been smacked in to a vividness by their first rain in many months that evokes an autumnal “spring awakening.” Correspondingly, the “call of fall” is evoked by various temperature extremes typical for this time of year—nighttime temps will dip to 48° but hit 90 during the day on Saturday. We know the drill: sweatshirt in the morning, t-shirt in the afternoon (and, of course, sun screen)—only more so this year!
The unusual weather in California isn’t news any more—our drought has reached exceptional scope and speculation about El Niño is all the rage. It is important to note that this phenomenon of the ocean currents is regular, unpredictable, and erratic in the out comes it produces. This first push of rain hit southern California with up to 2 inches of rain in some areas and heavy flooding in other western states, but left my simple rain gauge at about a half-inch.
So, these last several years have been odd but may be the “new normal.” The affect on how things grow is quite noticeable. We experience the change in weather, data points to a change in climate, multiple studies call out the effect of human activity…what I can say for certain is that if these changes remain constant, what we eat when will be affected, as will the cost of food.
The Nature of Hotness
One of the joys of gardening in Sonoma County is growing chiles (or chili. Or chilli.) of many different varieties. The hotness of chiles is rated on the Scoville Scale and is dependent on how much capsaicin is in the fruit. Recently I learned a lesson in the intensity of the Scoville Scale and a bit of humility regarding what I will shove in my mouth without thinking it through.
I decided it wise to take a bet with someone to trade and try hot chiles that we each grew. Seems he eats very hot chiles every day for lunch; however, I on the other hand will typically only use them for cooking.
He ate the one I grew like it was candy, so it was my turn. Being small, I ate it in one bite. At first it has a fresh taste and a mild warming sensation. Turns out the chile is referred to as El Diablo, and it lives up to it’s reputation. First I felt a slow, steady burn develop as it I had taken a mouth full of a hot beverage that was uncomfortable but not burning. Ahh, if only it had stopped there. Very quickly, it began to feel like I had taken a mouth full of some chemical that wasn’t supposed to be consumed, and, even more quickly, I began to worry that I would soon be experiencing blistering. Cut to me dashing to the refrigerator… ahhhhh, the calming effect of the fat in several glasses of milk…lesson learned.