The first days of autumn are a mix of seasons. Golden light and cool evenings signal the arrival of fall. Warm days and a yearning to be outdoors tether us to summer as we ride a seasonal cusp.
For my husband and me, the last few weeks have been a combination of our regular late-summer/early fall routines and new experiences.
Laps at the Meadowbrook swimming pool continue as a high point of each day for me. This is my favorite time of the year at the pool. Sparrows swarm the shrubbery at the entrance. Ducks and geese fly overhead along the Jones Falls. I am waiting for one to land on the pool, as sometimes happens. With the crowds gone, it is easy to swim solo in an outdoor lane.
On warm days, the water invigorates. Because heaters run at night, the water feels warm in chilly weather. Sweat pants and hoodies feel toasty too.
Daily walks up Roland Avenue continue for my husband. With cooler temperatures, he sometimes takes two. Lately, he has waited until the road construction stops in late afternoon before taking his second.
We are in throes of early fall work. I am finishing up garden articles for 2015 magazines and finalizing what should be photographed next spring. Olmsted expert and neighbor Judy Dobbs and I are about to lead two seasonal tours of some of Roland Park's footpaths for Roland Park Country School.
I look forward to a fall day in a future year when the Roland Avenue resurfacing project has finished and another ciclovia can take place. That festive tradition has been interrupted by the condition of the road surface.
My husband's alma mater, the nation's third oldest public high school, Baltimore City College, is about to celebrate its 175th anniversary. Since spring, he has worked on a poster project with a young alum and current City College teacher, J.D. Merrill, who grew up in Tuxedo Park. Working with non-profits has become routine over the last 15 years and connects both of us with dedicated residents trying to improve life in Baltimore.
As I looked at our fall calendar, I realized that we had not been away together since late May. I found three open days, so I seized the moment and scheduled a trip to the beach. Even late in the season, I knew it would help energize us for the busy months ahead.
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The two places we normally rent were taken, so I booked a quiet hotel on the ocean. The ride down was hassle-free. We soaked in sunny views of the Chesapeake Bay and fields of drying corn, yellowing soy and grasses in full plume.
The northeaster we had heard about on weather reports, however, reached the Delaware coast sooner than expected. We enjoyed one long walk by the shoreline and a few hours of sitting on the warm sand before the weather started to change. Temperatures dropped and we added fleece vests over sweatshirts. We closed our room windows, but the wind whipped up the ocean, so it was still easy to hear the waves.
Without the threat of a hurricane, the weather created a festive mood wherever we went. During our first dinner at a nearby pizzeria, a group of a men gathered and sang barbershop selections. At our hotel, a group of women, retired teachers, played a detective game over cocktails and the concierge joined in.
The next morning, a family of six rented a bicycle surrey and pedaled with me part of the way up the boardwalk.
I took my regular route along the ocean, past Henlopen Acres and North Shores to Gordon's Pond. A new, three-mile walking and bike path had been completed since my last trip. The pond was full of migrating birds, but without binoculars, I could not identify them. The first morning I rode out, other bikers and walkers used the trail. The second morning, wind speeds increased and pushed my bike sideways, and few were out. I rode farther than usual but made it back to town before the rain began.
While it rained all afternoon, the deluge did not start until later at night. Then, rain pounded the windows so hard, we were awake for two hours around 3 a.m. The wind and crashing waves of the northeaster were so loud that after our return to Baltimore, our house seemed silent, even with Cold Spring Lane behind us.
We are hoping for one more trip to the ocean before winter. That likely won't happen until another seasonal cusp, between fall and winter, when summer is long gone.