My brother first smelled autumn in Cleveland last month. Here I noticed it for the first time last week. If you don’t already recognize the scent or if you live where the seasons have subtler demarcations my description will make little sense – dry and flat but slightly astringent, a smell associated with goldenrod, thistle and apples, and the late-summer buzz of insects. It’s the opposite of the smell of spring, which is moist and earthy with a suggestion of rot.
The final chapter in Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book is titled “August,” and in it she describes the early hints of autumn in Finland:
“It is still summer, but the summer is no longer alive. It has come to a standstill; nothing withers, and fall is not ready to begin.”
The autumnal equinox is more than a month away but the summer has been dry and some leaves on maples and magnolias have already changed color and fallen. It’s a time of mixed signals, not yet the “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.”