Russ Allen: Autumnal Reflections

It is said that the seasons on Cape Cod are as unpredictable as the weather experienced in each one. Summer vacationers during the season that traditionally lasts from July 4 to Labor Day find that due to earlier school openings their visits end in mid-August, while others discover the joys of the cooler temperatures, shorter days, and relative crowd-less quiet of a September stay. Snowbirds flee the cold, ice and snow of the season between mid-December and mid-April, while those who remain live indoors to avoid winter’s storms. Natives argue there is no spring season on Cape Cod – rather the weather goes in a week from the lingering cold of winter to the heat of summer. I have not found this to be true – in fact the renewal of the natural beauty of the Cape each spring is something I await eagerly.

Moreover, there are unique seasonal patterns on Cape Cod. Weekend visits by second-home owners continue through Columbus Day weekend in October, with returns during the holiday season that lasts from Veterans Day through New Year’s Day. Businesses and tourist attractions curtail their activities or close during an “off-season” lasting from January through April, while the Cape’s population increases exponentially during the summer tourist season.

So, what is the best time of year to visit or live in Harwich? For me the answer is clear: Autumn, beginning after Labor Day Weekend and continuing to just before the often-hectic holiday season.

Why? For three main reasons – all of which require a belief that the fall season is best experienced outdoors, despite its limitations and requirement for more warmer clothes. The pleasures of autumn are not limited to tourists, vacationers, second-home owners, retirees, or full-time residents. They are here to be enjoyed by all whenever the opportunity arises.

What are those pleasures? I would name three: Fall sports. Autumn chores. Natural beauty.

While acknowledging the opportunities for participating in or observing sporting events are limited in the fall, there are enough to encourage getting out and enjoying them for themselves, as well as for gaining a sense of community and supporting those who play them. At the Monomoy Regional High School alone the schedule of fall sports includes, in addition to football, boys and girls soccer, field hockey, cross country, and golf. With competitions played throughout the week and on Saturday, this full schedule, which is available online, offers residents and visitors opportunities to watch quality play, be with others, and enjoy the briskness of the outdoors before the colder weather of winter drives us inside.

Autumn chores may at first seem a necessary evil, one that if we have the means we hire others to do for us. After all, after a spring and summer of mowing lawns, watering plants, weeding gardens and all our other outdoor chores, who wants to rake and dispose of leaves and put our gardens to bed for the winter? Clearing the leaves that fall from our many trees can be hard and noisy work, culminating with the difficulty of deciding how to dispose of them. Is there not a lingering fond memory of the smell of burning leaves associated with the fall?

Nevertheless, as with fall sports, autumn chores get us out of the house and into fresh air on days that are crisp and clear. There is a sense of accomplishment clearing a lawn and gardens that we will not experience shoveling snow from our driveways in winter. Good exercise in fresh air is but one advantage of autumn chores, as are the efforts we make to celebrate Halloween, the holiday that stands in the middle of this season. One of the most noticeable contrasts I am aware of every year is between the brightness of the holiday season and the relative darkness of the winter season on Cape Cod. Observing All Hallows Eve with Indian corn and stalks, mums, carved and lit pumpkins, special banners and other decorations brings special delight to my life before the progression of darkness that awaits me after autumn is over.

Thirdly, the Cape’s natural beauty is still colorful and accessible in the fall. While some business elements, restaurants and tourist attractions become less active or even close during this season, not to reopen until spring, Cape Cod itself doesn’t. Indeed, the natural beauty of its beaches, Rail Trail, woods, parks, and forests, hiking trails and other features not only remain accessible during the fall, but they are far less crowded than in the summer and their beauty is enhanced by the changing colors of the leaves overhead. Again, as with fall sports and autumn chores, to enjoy the natural beauty of Cape Cod in the fall requires us to get out of our houses and visit them. But maybe that is one of the points of this season. The winter months can be long, dark and cold and the opportunities to get outside limited. Autumn helps us store up experiences that will help us get through to next spring.

So, have a wonderful autumn season. Attend some fall sporting events and cheer on the teams. Enjoy the pleasure of working outdoors and add to the beauty of your property and town. Celebrate Halloween. Take a long walk appreciating the natural wonder of Cape Cod. Fall is a great opportunity if we take the time to embrace it.