Today is the first day of fall.
I never quite get that date right, because it drifts around in confusing fashion (here’s a guidepost for those of you who care about such things). This year it also happens to be the beginning of the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashana (Happy New Year!), which also drifts about with even wider variation, based on the lunar calendar.
I’ve always loved fall. In fact, it’s my favorite season, despite (or perhaps because of) its bittersweet qualities. It signals the end of spring and summer, the coming of winter and darkness. But it goes out in a blaze of glory, especially here in New England.
Why does the Jewish New Year begin in the fall? Actually–as I just learned through Google–it’s one of four Jewish New Years .
But let’s not complicate things too much; they’re complicated enough already. It was once explained to me–and I don’t know whether this is true or not–that, just as the Jewish day and all Jewish holidays begin in the darkness of sunset the night before, so the Jewish year begins in the darkness of fall, paralleling the Biblical account of the creation, where darkness preceded light. Whether true or not, it’s nicely poetic.
By the time fall comes to these parts it’s readily apparent that it’s actually been here for some time already. The nights have gotten cold, often in the forties, and the yearly struggle about turning on the heat begins. It’s a badge of honor in New England to be the last one to succumb to the terrible weakness of the need to be warm.
I’m not usually one of the final holdouts. But I do my best. I layer on the sweaters and the sweats as long as I can stand it.
Just yesterday I performed the ritual Closing of the Windows, the yin to the yang (or maybe vice-versa?) of the Opening of the Windows that occurs in late spring. Yes, my windows are all now firmly shut, probably not to opened again for many many months.
And yet the furnace is still set to “off.” But soon, soon. And then watch those heating bills soar–
A fellow New Englander, Robert Frost, had something to say about the matter:
NOW CLOSE THE WINDOWS
Now close the windows and hush all the fields;
If the trees must, let them silently toss;
No bird is singing now, and if there is,
Be it my loss.
It will be long ere the marshes resume,
It will be long ere the earliest bird:
So close the windows and not hear the wind,
But see all wind-stirred.