Sue Bowman Rural Ramblings

As I’ve mentioned previously, autumn is my favorite season. I’m a big fan of the cooler air, the brightly colored leaves and the beautiful sunsets. I also love the unique golden color of the light at sunrise and sunset that only occurs during the fall.

In the early morning, the center hallway of our old farmhouse shines with a special golden glow. Although the front door leading into this hallway faces south, the dazzling morning sunlight still manages to cast a lovely glow upon the open stairway that runs all the way from the first floor right up to the attic door two floors above. The mahogany stair rail gleams in the morning light and the old-fashioned metallic-patterned wallpaper also reflects the sunshine in a welcoming way.

For a similar reason, I also hate being away from home in the late afternoon hours this time of year, as it means I’ll miss the orangish-yellow rays of the setting sun slanting through the windows of my kitchen and summer kitchen-turned dining room. Because there’s a porch all along the west side of the house, which these rooms overlook, there’s only a relatively brief period when the sun’s angle is able to reach these normally shaded rooms. It’s a treat to see the warm-colored beams shine through these windows facing our now-harvested field of corn, where only stubbles remain.

The gold of the sunlight manages to hit the far walls in both of these rooms for a few moments each late fall afternoon. En route, it splashes dazzlingly across the kitchen island and the dining room table like a spotlight, turning them into featured attractions for a few brief minutes. The woolen afghan crocheted in zigzags of fall colors, which was once draped over my Gramma Bowman’s living room sofa, now decorates the back of the dining room’s little loveseat. There it takes on a brand-new look when the setting sun plays across it. This new lighting effect gives both the kitchen and the dining room a surprising “makeover” without changing a thing.

I think the reason for my affection for these golden transformations is the added “coziness” that the late afternoon sun provides, if only for a short while. And, perhaps this seasonal light nostalgically recalls for me my childhood in this same farmhouse. At the end of the day, my mother would be cooking supper and its mouth-watering aromas would be added to the overall effect. With the colder weather’s arrival, she would have a coal fire burning in the firebox of her old Bengal range. Instead of cooking on its gas burners, she would arrange her pots and pans over the coal-heated portion of the stovetop. There might be a kettle with some apples stewing for dessert, as well as a cast iron frying pan for making the main course. On the back of the stove, a pot with potatoes would be boiling, with its lid making a jingling sound as steam seeped out from underneath it.

There are still good meals and appetizing aromas coming from our kitchen today, with several differences. The old coal stove is now disconnected from its stovepipe and used as a sideboard in the dining area and, with cattle to care for, our cooking this time of year typically takes place well past the golden evening hours.

After the falling shadows lengthen toward darkness, the main attraction becomes the purple, blue and pink streaks in the sky where the sun’s last rays have painted the sky in new hues to replace the earlier gold tones. Science tells us that the spectacular array of sunset colors in the fall are due to a larger amount of dust being in the sky, reflecting the waning light in different spectrums. While that may be true, both the glorious golden light after sunrise and just before sundown remind me of a less scientific explanation.

A line of long ago learned and now largely forgotten poetry comes to my mind at these gold-drenched moments. While these times are so pretty, that we wish they would never end, it was Robert Frost who told us why that doesn’t happen. He explained it in the following lines from his New Hampshire Collection, which won the 1924 Pulitzer prize for poetry:

“Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden came to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.”

Sue Bowman is a freelance writer in southeastern Pennsylvania.