Friday, September 30, 2005


They call it Indian Summer when it gets hot and dry like this. The usual cool breeze from the Bay isn't blowing. Instead, it's a warm wind coming from the inland hills. I love it like this, although it always throws me a little off-balance. I'm an East Coast native. Fall to me always meant crisp air, iron gray skies, a cold wind, the smell of leaves burning and the comfortable hiss of steam radiators kicking on in old brick buildings. It was time to get out the sweaters and the schoolbooks, the new pencils, the clean white paper. Here in California people call it Fire Weather, with good reason. There are several blazes raging in Los Angeles County as I write this. I will never forget the Oakland Hills fire fourteen years ago, when we watched an entire neighborhood go up in extravagant flames right at the end of our street. I remember the scraps of handwritten letters, of book pages, floating down on the fire wind into our yard that day. I bent to pick up what looked like a fragment of a window screen, and it turned to ash in my fingers.

Still, I love this season. Fall has never felt to me like death or like the end of things. Its colors are too rich and vibrant. It's more like a last hurrah. Here, in the seductively balmy afternoon, there is a tree down the street that has already turned. Its leaves glow a brilliant orange in their last furious blush before dropping.