There was something about that day that marked it from the ones preceding it. The cup of coffee, the one I normally grip by the handle, was nestled in both hands as I sat on the balcony in the coolness of the waking morning. Two hands. I was holding the cup in two hands. Later, as I walked to my workplace with a colleague, I stoped in soft light filtering through the maples and I turned to her and said: “Can you taste it? Can you taste the change?”
She looked at me quizzically. “Can I taste what?” she replied.
“Can you taste the change? Autumn has arrived,” I responded.
That was sometime around three weeks ago, when the figs that hung on the tree I pass by every day had still not all ripened, where chestnut flowers hung in bright green stars high above the earth, and where the grapes in the family vineyards that dot this landscape still hung in drupes of purple blush on the vines. Warm days followed, but with the scent of woodfires wafting through the air in the evenings, the days just did not feel the same as before.
There are no grapes any more; they have been harvested, destined for this season’s crush. The leaves on the fig tree are starting to turn, the beautiful, reddish-brown chestnuts have been freed from their birthplace and lie scattered everywhere I look, and the light filtering through the maples near the little cafe by the way has softened. Yes autumn had arrived.
It isn’t just such changes beyond the walls that signal the coming shift in the spiral of time. Last week, spurred by the drop in temperature, the boilers that provide heat to the apartment we live in switched on, filling the space with the glorious, soft radiance of gently warmed air. The lights in the apartment that seemed so stark and angry in the summer months have now taken on a golden tinge. The umbrellas now sit by the front door, blankets have come out of their closet, and the down coats now hang in the hallway closet, ready for their first wearing of the season.
Yet it is outside where the changes are at their most vivid. Three weeks ago, wispy clouds floated high above, evoking a call to reach out and frolic as they danced through the skies. This week, they descended deep into the greying valleys, sometimes shifting wildly in the currents born from the clash of the warmth of the land with the descending cold of the skies. At other times, in the stillness of the early hours, pockets of pearly mist lay sleepily in the hillside folds, blanketing the sounds of the forest. And the rain.
It is late Wednesday night. With a cup of hot water at hand, I sit outside, fanned by a breeze that speaks of snow, and I write. It wasn’t until this morning where the rain that began early Saturday afternoon finally ceased. It began high in the hills and eased its way into the lower reaches that night, a steady drumming of quiet that ran well into the following Sunday morning. When the weather retreated back into the peaks that day, I found myself out and about, flitting around the patches of damp that lingered, and in amongst the people of Lugano.
Last weekend, the town celebrated the season with its annual Autumn Festival, a celebration of the season in the region.
My path took me through the beautifully kept town park with its stand of towering Sycamores growing by the lakeshore, and into the promenade, the alleyways and the piazzas that are a part of this town.
The area around Lugano has been inhabited since the Stone Age and was settled by the Romans by the first century BC. The age of the town itself as it is called isn’t clear, though it is first mentioned as a commune in documents dating back to 804. I’m not sure how much of those days remains, however there is much that is old, that holds stories that I aim to find out about.
The lakefront was lined with market stalls of artisans parading their wares, the piazzas held tents offering lovely local food and beverages, and traditional music played by folk bands filled the air. And then, there was the alluring scent of chestnuts roasting in the braziers that dotted the cobbled streets.
It wasn’t the grand affair that those of us from big cities might have experienced, but it was authentic. In a town which has grown to have an outstanding array of supercars, where designer labels are seen at every turn, it was lovely to be taken to the soul of the surrounding region, if even for a short while.
That evening, the rain set in again, solidly, and so it stayed for the next two days. Yet, even this, in its own curious way, was wonderful. I wouldn’t say it was pleasant to be sloshing around soaked through to bare skin, but it gave me an appreciation of what it takes for this part of the world to be what is.
It is a time of the year where, with the passing of every moment, we begin the process of ushering in the winter, and it brings back fond memories of when I previously lived in this part of the world, years ago.
This afternoon, the skies had cleared and I made my way down the laneway to a bench that I like to sit at and just gaze at the mountains.
There they stood, capped in snow.