It occurred to me recently, not for the first time, that we live in a truly wonderful part of the world with wonderful people. Having just been through some major but planned surgery, now happily behind me with a clean bill of health, I was overwhelmed with kindness, flowers, food, cards and emails from my friends and family here.
There is no place like home, and Coastal Georgia is definitely home for me now - especially as my grandchildren live here. While I will always have a special place in my heart for England, I simply can’t imagine ever living there again.
The differences in the two countries are really prevalent this time of year. Last weekend saw the fall equinox, which marked the first day of autumn for the Northern Hemisphere.
There are two equinoxes every year - in September and March - when the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night is the same length -12 hours - all over the world. The word “equinox” comes from Latin, meaning “equal night.”
Some of the differences occurred to me, as I enter my 10th autumn living in beautiful Coastal Georgia, between living here and across the pond during this fall season.
• Firstly, a different word describes the season. “Fall” is rarely used in British English, although these days it is widely understood thanks to the reach of American movies and TV. Here in the USA, while “autumn” is understood it is relatively rare in conversation
• The weather is definitely different. Hurricane season is here, with Florence and the evacuations of the last two years on everyone’s minds. Back in jolly olde England, they are all grumbling about the need for “brollies and macks,” which are umbrellas and mackintoshes (raincoats) and huddling indoors for a nice cup of warming tea with the “boiler” (central heating) on. On the first day of fall here we had highs in the high 80s with glorious sunshine - perfect pool weather, although we are still battling the humidity and bugs. Back in England, the highs were in the low 50s with rain.
• Birds flying south for winter. Well, of course, we pretty much are south here! In England, this is the time to see many birds converging to head for warmer climates to escape the cold weather (hence the term snowbird) and because the food they eat dies out in the British winter.
• The foliage - most of the trees in England are deciduous and have turned into autumn hues, with many leaves soon to be swept to the ground with the rain and wind, whereas here we live in a sub-tropical climate with very different trees that are largely green all year.
• Pumpkins everywhere - Pumpkins are just not a big deal in England, although they are starting to creep into popular culture with the Americanization from TV and films and the growing popularity of Halloween.
When I was a child, no one celebrated Halloween, but instead is it was all about Guy Fawkes Night on Nov. 5, with bonfires and stories of treason and hangings. Here in the U.S., the sheer volume of pumpkins everywhere is impressive, and the recipes seem endless - from pumpkin spiced coffee, breads, soups and pies to the more unusual chillies, curries and fritters.
It is almost impossible to avoid them here. Every porch seems to be decorated with these distinctive fruits (yes, they are technically fruits, not vegetables), and I didn’t carve my first pumpkin until I was over 40 and lived here.
I don’t often quote the major English romantic poets of the 19th century in this column, but I think this one from Percy Bysshe Shelley sums up this change of the seasons nicely: “There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been!”
God bless America, and enjoy the season!