Last Friday in Oklahoma City, the day started out hot and gusty. It got up to 105 degrees, and just as I started to fear September would wilt on the lingering vines of August the temperature dropped.
By 8 p.m. we were in the low 70s, and by bedtime, the night was 40 degrees cooler than the day. This is how Oklahoma welcomes fall.
One day, I’m untangling my five-year-old’s hair from the rubber strap on her swimming mask and the next day, I’m packing away our beach towels and buying pumpkins.
I know we’re not even halfway through September, but I can’t help scoot summer out the door. The green-sage of the blue spruce trees, the fiery orange of the burning bushes, and the red-tipped photinas are Oklahoma matrons.
They upstage the brides of summer. She can’t compete with high school football games or the pumpkin patch. The cold cuts and cantaloupe of July are no match for homemade chili or the wild persimmons of Oklahoma County.
In 1976, some Vietnamese immigrants who survived the Fall of Saigon planted three persimmon trees in a courtyard at Catholic Church south of downtown Oklahoma City.
Today, only one survives — and it is a sight to behold when the fruit becomes heavy on the branches. And I am struck by the miracle of one who emigrates from tragedy and plants an eastern symbol of good fortune and happiness in a place where it already grows native.
One of my favorite American poets is Jakartan-born Li Young Lee. In his poem Persimmons he explains how to eat the fruit:
put the knife away, lay down newspaper.
Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat.
Chew the skin, suck it,
and swallow. Now, eat
the meat of the fruit,
all of it, to the heart…
Truly, happiness is a choice.
I am more intentional about my life and how I spend my time during the fall months than I am any other time of year. In Oklahoma, we may find the bliss of winter and summer. But we never forget the drudgery that both can bring. And, while we may frolic in springtime, collectively we are mindful of the tragedies her thunderstorms can spawn.
But, nobody here ever wishes away autumn. She is the friend you long to see. Not the one who is bikini-clad. Not summer, who overstays her welcome — but the one who comes for hot, black coffee. Who dances gently in the wind, who knows her beauty is temporary, who gathers on the porch, who comes to listen.
What is it you need to tell her? If you are lucky enough to have survived some horrible tragedy, then you should be smart enough to educate yourself about regret. How will you welcome fall? Now is the time to start planning your Halloween costume, your trip down the Talimena Byway.
Did you know that you can use butternut squash as bowling pins and you cut a pumpkin in half and scoop it out and string up and make a bird feeder? And, you need to buy some wax paper on your next trip to the grocery store. So, when the leaves start to fall you can iron them between two sheets, just like you did in grade school. There is no expiration date on the fun.
You do not need permission to make apple prints or tissue paper pom-poms or run through corn maze. Although you may look silly doing it one of the top five regrets that people have when they die is that they did what people expected them to do instead of what they wanted to do. And, they did not allow themselves to be happier. And I can’t think of a better place or time to be happy than fall in Oklahoma.
What do you love about autumn? How do you celebrate Oklahoma fall?