A Sense of Fall

Autumn Scene on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Floyd County Virginia

How would you describe what a breath of late October air feels and smells like where you live?

A single sentence: that is your task. Write a single sentence that says something about how you experience the smells of autumn.

More is fine, but start with a single sentence. You can do it.

Stop and consider your olfactory memories of fall and the feelings they convey for you. (Ask for contributions from your kids, and please pass the challenge along to others by sharing the link to this post!)

Consider sharing–in comments, including links to your blog post if you put it up for us. Might be fun, should enough folks accept this challenge, to merge all of the sentences together into one collaborative SENSE of Fall. Here’s mine:

Fall smells of wood smoke and fading grasses, of dead leaves that drape the yard in rust and gold, of tomatoes rotting on coiled black vines killed by first frost.

Fall smells of burning oak in the dark morning, the musk of coffee, heat and cold savored for a quiet moment on the front porch in chill air.

The sun slides up through baring branches, each turn rising farther south over the east ridge.

A shaft of light, and warm aromas lift like seasoned spirits; we breathe them in and know our days are numbered.

A day of drizzle and our woods steep to tea–a hundred wet leaves still bright decay along the path beside the meadow, mingle their fragrant deaths in a medley of summer passing.

Fall smells a little like winter.

Share this with your friends!

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. There’s a rustling of wet leaves, the heady fragrance of cedar and meadowsweet gone to seed somewhere in the woods, over the bare trees the calling of great geese flying south and the plaintive departing cry of the loons.

  2. A gentle brisk cool refreshing breeze, against my face. The smell of fresh air. Leaves fluttering down to land on the first layer, already there, and still wet from yesterday’s rain.

    The rustling noise from footsteps of three wooly winter coated Siberians, full of excitement, enjoying the cooler air, while they run and romp, playfully tackling one another, in the fallen leaves.

    And the delicious taste and wonderful smell of my first sip of H & C coffee, while I sit on the picinic table and watch the change of season before my eyes. Winter is coming, and we welcome it!

  3. Today autumn smells like I need to stack more wood, bring out my silk underwear and make more money to pay my higher heating bills. No romance here, just reality…;)

  4. The chainsaw sings a high keening dirge
    For the deadwood, as it cuts sharp and clean.
    The crisp autumn air, sharp and clean,
    Burns my lungs as I carry
    Through the dead leaf fall
    The tree’s final gift to us
    That will come alive again
    In our woodstove as it
    Burns bright in a blaze of glory
    Saving us from the cutting of
    The sharp winter wind.

  5. A fall forest is rich with the of scent of pure and dark loamy earth, sweet white pines and a tang in the background. Some describe this as the scent of decay, but that word sounds vaguely disgusting to me, and the scent is anything but that. The scent is intoxicating, certainly, and complex in a way that the undifferentiated lushness of summer can never be.

  6. This is right up my alley and really show the poet in you, Fred.

    Autumn smells like: An apple crisp crust baking brown and crispy with warm wild apples steeping inside.

  7. In Southern California it smells like fire. With the wind raging it becomes terrifying. We evacuated to a Red Cross Shelter for one night. We arrived at the shelter at 2 a.m. The most welcome first words we heard were, “You will be safe here.” I shall keep our treasures we took with us that night collected together in one spot in case we must evacuate again. They will not be restored to their usual places until there is heavy rain and that may not happen for months.