Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fall, rethought

I'm addicted to autumn in New England. 

One fall morning in college, walking back from clinical psych class, my friend taught me the word "petrichor," which refers to the smell of soil after rain. It's one of my favorite things about late September, how the leaves start to fall and rot into the ground, mixing with the rain and the dying grass to make petrichor, the smell that signals the changing of seasons.

It's hard to catch that smell here, being that grass is a little scarce, and there's a heck of a lot of dust, particularly in Yogovostock which is newer and less protected from the wind tearing in from the steppe by a barrier of trees. And there isn't the wide range of deep reds and brilliant oranges on the trees, but there's a delightful smear of yellow painting the trees, and when I walk under the canopy they provide on my way to school I feel so very Anne Shirley, tripping through an autumn wonderland. And it's not like New England, but it is so very fall, a fall all its own. 

The shaded sidewalk that leads to our language center.
Short-cut apple cider simmers on the stove, a handful of бабушек sell small pumpkins and winter squash outside the magazines, yellow leaves crunch underneath my boots on the way to the bus stop, and I pour some gingerbread syrup into my coffee. And of course, dang, it's cold. Scarves and sweaters and boots are not superfluous fashion accessories but actually 100% mandatory if you want to survive your walk down the wind tunnel created by the tall apartment buildings. 

And so, stripped of the things that usually endear me to this season back home, why am I still so charmed by the shortening days, the unrelenting warmth of the radiator, the mandatory dressage of beanies and gloves, the subtle shift in produce offerings, the steady ice cream consumption, and the increased presence of those medical masks on the faces of benevolent souls who are doing their part to limit the spread of the common cold? I love that fall is still fall even outside of my beloved New England, and that the city I am growing to love knows autumn in its melancholy beauty. 

My freshman year of college, I went to Boston in late October for a law school conference. (It was actually a NBLSA conference, but that's another awkward story for another time.) It was picture-perfect, Boston in the fall, catching a glimpse of the crew races on the Charles and Harvard yard in autumn adornment, squirrels packing away acorns like mad. I never dreamed that three years later I'd be across the world experiencing beautiful autumn in a country known for its frigid winters. Oh, Karaganda, thank you for this lovely season, this last parting gift before winter blows in.

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