Thursday, October 28, 2010

October 28: Indian Summer

I had a few all-too-brief moments outside today, but from what little I experienced of the day, it seemed the epitome of Indian summer--unseasonably warm, blue sky, odd flowers blooming in otherwise dead and leaf-strewn gardens (did I see white irises in one yard?), with the late fall foliage burnished in gold, umber, russet, and bronze. All week it's been in the 60s, although we've also seen a lot of fog and rain (and even some thunder and lightning). By the weekend we're supposed to be back down in the 40s again, and the chilly slide into winter will probably begin in earnest. I already made an appointment to get my snow tires put on.

Driving around in the glow of the day, I was thinking about that phrase "Indian summer." Where did it come from? According to Wikipedia, the phrase has been used for more than two hundred years and might refer to the time of year when the native tribes would take a break from raiding colonial settlements, presumably to prepare for winter. Or, it might have meant the season when Indians harvested their corn and squash. In this part of the country, it seems a bit late to be harvesting corn, but maybe they dried it on the stalk. To complicate things, I found online an article by William Deedler, a weather historian for the National Weather Service, who has found at least one account suggesting that the phrase might actually refer to India, in which Indian summer may have described the mild period of the year when ships leaving India could carry more cargo. In any case, the connotation is a positive one--it's a time of peace or plenty. Truly, a calm, warm day like this one feels like that sort of gift.

In some European countries, this time of year is called "St. Martin's summer." In Spain and Portugal, says Wikipedia, they have big celebrations rooted in Celtic tradition in which "bonfires, roasted chestnuts, and wine have an important role." I like the sound of that.

And all this makes me now think about Indian pudding. Perhaps that's what I should make tonight to celebrate what may be our last day of Indian summer...

Landscape shifts to gold,
color of squash and pumpkins.
Indian summer.

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