Autumn is my favorite season in Ireland. You'd think that I would prefer the sunnier, longer days of summer but I just feel disappointed when it isn't as warm as 30+ years of Texas summers taught me it should be.
In the autumn it is windy and fresh and you can smell peat burning in fireplaces….a smell that is Ireland's own in its earthy smokiness. The leaves change and are blown off the trees in showers of yellow and wine by sudden gusts of fresh wind. Walking to school this past week we were pelted by nearly an entire tree's worth of leaves.
The wind makes everyone giddy, especially the kids. You can feel their energy go haywire as the wind whips them into a gleeful frenzy. Hair blows around heads in crazy swirls, eyes water and noses run, and giggles and screams compete with the whipping wind. It is a terrific feeling. I imagine they feel as though they could jump into a gust and fly to school. Or maybe that's just how I feel!
One of the strangest things about living so far above the equator is the huge variance in length of days. In spring and summer the days get gradually longer, peaking to more than 20 hours of sun on the summer solstice. The nights don't get fully pitch black until after 2am and the dawn begins to break by 5 in the morning. Of course it isn't full on bright sun at midnight, but it is twilight bright. When my stepdad Joe visited one summer he joked that he was getting a 2 for 1 vacation because the days lasted so long.
There are two sides to every story and this sunlight thing isn't an exception. As you would imagine fall and winter are on the opposite end of the sunlight spectrum. It starts gradually. The night starts to come sooner and before you know it what was a 7 o'clock dusk has become 5 o'clock. Then the time changes and it is dusk at four. Paul is always amazed at how low in the sky the sun is at its noontime peak. We went to Seattle once in October and were freaked out by this same thing never thinking that we would move here and come to love these early nights.
I love early darkness because it forces us to slow down and come inside. We have a proper sit down dinner together with the slow chat that's not possible in fast-paced summer when the kids are on the road riding bikes until after 7. I make things that take all day to cook but only a half hour to prepare and we drink red wine or Guinness and indulge in brown bread and proper butter. You cannot drink Guinness when it's warm outside, (warm being relative of course) unless you're on holiday and have been caught in a sudden shower and forced into the nearest pub.
Here I sit, warm in my fleece pullover and fuzzy socks, watching the wind bend the trees, and looking forward to a night in with the curtains drawn, all of us cozied up together.