This is a particularly hard time of year for me. I try to be graceful all summer long about the hundred-plus temperatures and almost-constant sunshine. After all, I come from Ohio where I once spent a June without one day of sun. I know we’re lucky here most of the year. I can cope. But honestly, it’s September now and it’s time for Fall. And we’re still at least a month away from cooler weather. I am unhappy.
It doesn’t help that many of my Midwest and East Coast Facebook friends are posting photos of picking apples and doing all sorts of autumn things. And I was at Costco the other day and they are doing Halloween with a full-size pirate skeleton, with a parrot skeleton on its shoulder. I mean really – a parrot skeleton! And their costumes for kids are soooo much nicer than the ones they had at Woolworths when I was a kid! You know, Costco is missing out big time. They should have costumes like that in adult sizes. I bet they would fly off the racks.
And I know as September moves into October it will just get worse. My Eastern friends and family will post fall leaf shots and my undergraduate school will send out a postcard with an amazing photo of campus in the fall. Kenyon has regularly won the most beautiful campus in the country award, and my alma mater comes into its own in October. Meanwhile here in Arizona there will be not a speck of gold or bronze anywhere. We’ll still be wearing shorts…
OK, enough griping. What can we do to cope with the reality of our lack of autumnal beauty in Phoenix? Here are my strategies, developed over three decades of dealing with a displaced autumn-lover, when I can’t get back for my leaf-turning fix.
It’s the color, stupid: If I can’t see those colors outside, I make sure I get them inside. Table runners, bedspreads, throws, clothes, whatever and wherever I can. Gold, orange, brown, bronze, any and all fall colors pop up all over my home come September first. I’m a quilter so I have plenty of fabric in my stash, so in a pinch I can just go dig through and play with all my fabrics that fit in the fall color palette. Interestingly enough, that’s most of my stash. Go figure.
Accessory madness: I also love fall stuff. Pumpkins, leaves, acorns, squirrels, Indian corn, gourds, anything and everything that says autumn comes out and spills all over my house. I have several boxes of fall decorations that show up and replace my regular accessories in early September. It may be summer outside but darn it, you will know it’s Autumn in my home.
Fall food: I know that the temperatures don’t encourage chili and chicken pot pie, but when the calendar says so, I have to start pretending too. I just found a recipe for maple brown-sugar cookies that I plan to make this week. Can pumpkin bread be far behind?
Travel: When I can manage it, I do make the pilgrimage to New England in the Fall. If you never have made the trip, I strongly recommend it at least once. Let me suggest the best way to do it. Plan on at least a week. Spend the weekend in a city such as Boston, Hartford Connecticut, or New York City; someplace that has good fall leaves as well as other things to do. Small-town New England is crazy on the weekends when the leaves have turned, so stay away.
But, come Monday morning, hop into your rental car and head off into New England proper. Hit the back roads. Stop at the first apple orchard you come to that has a farm stand. Sample all the varieties of apples that you have never heard of – there will be many. Buy two or three of each of your favorites. Now if you’re lucky they will also have a large wheel of cheddar cheese sitting on the counter. You may think it should be in the refrigerator but that’s just because you don’t really understand cheese. Buy a nice big wedge. Then stop at a grocery store and get yourself a cheap sharp knife and some whole-grain crackers. Those apples, that cheese and the crackers will be your lunch for the rest of the week.
Now, stop anyplace that looks interesting. Like the looks of that cider mill? Stop and get an ice cold glass. Fresh and unfiltered, there’s nothing like the smell of apple cider being pressed. And pick up a cider donut while you’re there. You haven’t really had a donut until you have a cider donut.
You’ll find lots of parks with picnic tables, and streams right by the road. There are great places to hike. Antique shops announce their presence all along the byways by flying American flags. And don’t miss the small towns. Many of them sell local arts and crafts. And the craftsmanship is good.
Where to stay? Forget the Comfort Inns. Pick up a book of Country Inns and Bed and Breakfast places. You’ll find great places to stay at good prices. Many times your stop will include wine and cheese and conversation with your hosts and other guests in the early evening. And most of them will have a collection of menus for local restaurants to make it easy to pick the right place for dinner. Please don’t eat at the chains. You’ll be missing some of the best food you’ll ever have.
Do I love New England in the Fall? Yes, and for so much more than the leaves. But for the leaves most of all, in colors that are hard to believe, they are so breathtaking. I never tire of their beauty. It’s almost worth the winter that comes after. Almost. But not quite. Which is why I live in Arizona. And why I am willing to deal with a September with temperatures in the hundreds. Although it’s darn hard.
Maria Muto-Porter is one of those odd people who actually enjoys speaking in front of groups. To see her in action and learn more about speaking in public, you can come and sit in on her upcoming free presentation this coming Saturday at the Goodyear Branch Library at 3 p.m., “Public Speaking for Teens, It’s Easier than you Think!” You’re welcome to come even if your teen years are long behind you.
Maria Muto-Porter is a freelance writer and blogger. Her career began in broadcasting as a reporter and producer where she covered local news and features in Toledo, Ohio. Muto-Porter served as editor for two publications including a national design magazine. She has also written and edited books, magazine articles and other business materials. You can contact Maria at