Fall. Growing up in New Mexico, that word meant cooler days had finally arrived. The crisp air was filled with the aroma of green chiles being roasted outside the grocery stores. Hot air balloons filled the early-morning skies. The weather was absolutely perfect. Thus began my love of fall.
At least in certain places, fall is breathtakingly beautiful. The hot, humid American South—where I now live—is not always one of those places. Here, the days are brutally hot well into what the rest of the country considers to be “fall.” Some years, the trees don’t change color until December or January.
During my first years living here, I missed my favorite season dearly. But several years ago, I made the firm choice that I would not let this perpetually summery climate interfere with my love for my favorite season. I would find ways to celebrate fall, no matter how hot it is outside. Here are some tips for adopting the practice!
The kitchen is your new best friend
Yes, I’m the girl who makes a homemade pumpkin spiced latte in August. I figure I can’t control the weather, but I can, at least, control what I am eating and drinking. When fall refuses to come to me, I bring it to my taste buds. One of my favorite dishes during fall is a pumpkin spice Dutch baby topped with baked apples and raisins. I pulled the leftovers out of the microwave at work one day, and a coworker commented that it “smelled like fall.” Mission accomplished. I bake all the pumpkin things I can eat—pumpkin bread, cake, cookies, and muffins. I put pumpkin in my breakfast smoothie. My pumpkin spice latte—with coconut milk and maple syrup!—becomes a frequent treat when I have a few extra minutes.
But there’s more to fall cooking than just the pumpkin! Hot apple cider often accompanies a book in the evening. Many tea companies sell fall flavors so you can brew up an easy, festive drink at work rather than forking out cash to buy a seasonal beverage. Sweet potatoes and stuffed acorn squash become regulars on the dinner menu. A few good recipes are this pumpkin ice cream that is perfect for cooling down when the weather doesn’t quite feel like fall, these mouth-watering pumpkin cinnamon rolls, a hearty butternut squash hash, pumpkin chocolate chip scones (because why not?), and, as the weather finally starts to cool down, some hot and satisfying green chile stew or some chicken lentil soup.
Always be searching for fall
If I can’t have fall in all its glory—trees changing, crisp air blowing in my face, the smell of roasting chile peppers—then I will, at least, take what I can find when I find it. No matter the weather, I’ve found that the day after Halloween is the perfect day to go in search of fall, to enjoy all the Halloween decorations and fall decor (of course with my fall-flavored tea in hand in a travel mug or thermos). Enjoy the jack-o-lanterns! Their existence, like the beauty of the changing leaves, is short-lived.
Check out your local area for pumpkin farms, apple orchards, and fall festivals. I was surprised one year to discover a nearby neighborhood had a “pumpkin patch.” A few friends and I checked it out, and we found a delightfully bustling activity center. We may have been too old for the games, but we sure enjoyed watching the kids and maybe even trying a few ourselves. Many churches have a fall festival as a way to fundraise, and they are fantastic ways to get out and enjoy the fall weather and atmosphere.
Craft stores are another excellent place to go looking for fall. If my summery climate means there are no lovely golden, red, and orange leaves in October and November to bring indoors to create centerpieces and other decorations, then I find some fake ones to help bring a touch of color to my table. And the good news is, craft stores often have sales right about when I’m ready to decorate.
I also make sure to “look” for the delights of fall with all of my senses. One of my favorite fall activities, for example, is acorn and leaf crunching. There is something absolutely satisfying about the sound of a hard acorn crunching under my foot. Extremely dry leaves also provide a satisfying crunch when stepped on, but it is rarer, here at least, for the leaves to fall and for it to be dry enough for them to crunch.
Finally, looking for fall in a warm climate means not just looking in unexpected places, but also at unexpected times. Where I live, there is nothing to brighten a dreary January day quite like the sight of a tree blazing with full color. Instead of grumbling about how wrong it is to have a tree lose its leaves after Christmas, I choose to let myself enjoy the beauty of the tree. I may laugh at the strangeness of the timing, but I marvel at the masterpiece of orange, yellow, and gold that is before my eyes.
Dress for the weather you want
There is, at least, one benefit to the air conditioning that blasts throughout buildings in yearlong summer climates—it makes it easier to dress for fall. I start wearing scarves to work all the time as soon as I can possibly not die under that extra layer. Many of my scarves are lightweight for that very reason. My boots come out well before they are needed, given the temperature. I love sweater weather, the comforting feeling of a scarf around my neck, and the confidence that outfit somehow gives me. I also like to reach for skirts that are a touch longer while still made out of lightweight material. Darker colors replace the bright summer dresses I’ve been living in for months, and jeans get paired with flowy, long-sleeved tops. Enjoying a few months of “fall outfits” also helps me not feel like I’ve missed out on my favorite season when, all of a sudden, it’s Christmas.
Do I miss the full autumn experience of a cooler climate in which the whole countryside seemed to burst with color? Most definitely. But I have found ways to search for fall, to create fall, and to see the beauty in the moments that I am given. My simple little pleasures of acorn-crunching, scarf-wearing, and baking have become ways to find joy in my life as it is now. Here’s to finding fall—and those tiny moments of beauty—in every circumstance!