Autumn: the perfect season for our imperfect species

Fall Colors
My northern Minnesota back yard during an autumn past.
Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

The stages of a year are a lot like the stages of life. Each one has something to teach you. By the end of it, you’re not the same person you were at the beginning. And that’s good. Because otherwise you would get sick of yourself.

So it goes as we send the kids to school in crisp September air, autumn enveloping us like steam from a hot cup of morning coffee. Sure, we know this beauty leads all too soon to icy blades piercing every one of our exposed skin cells. Only babies enter this descent unaware, and they’re so bundled up they don’t know if they’re on a picnic or lodged in a sock drawer.

But that’s hardly the point. Fall in northern Minnesota, properly experienced, is neither a harbinger of cold misery, nor a madcap blitz of prolonged summer. It is. Now. What it is.

Fall is low expectations in a light coat.

Autumn stands as the only season that doesn’t go too fast or too slow, that isn’t marred by hopes that it will end soon or fears it won’t last long enough. Fittingly fall culminates in Thanksgiving, the only American holiday free of commercialism, dedicated solely to gratitude, eating and napping.

I would liken fall to the 8-day window where women fully enjoy pregnancy. The feeling of having an hour left before the alarm goes off. Or perhaps the moment you realize you already did the dishes and it’s OK to sit down.

This is a modern perspective, of course. Rural families like mine once had to fill a winter larder, just like rodents do. Fall was a busy time of harvest, and still is for the handful of independent farmers left in our woods.

We do have a garden. And while we hardly have to work the fields to bring in the harvest, it’s clear the tomatoes know that the jig is up. Just a few weeks ago, I watched perfect orbs of green form on the branches of our tomato plants. It looked as though we’d be pulling in Platonic Ideals of round, red tomatoes.

But as soon as the temperature dropped at night, the tomatoes acted like unlicensed flea market vendors packing up as the city cop makes a U-turn up the road. They blew hernias, cleaved like butts and rapidly became back alley county fair fodder. If I were to take pictures of them, I feel I’d need to pixilate the photo to meet standards of decency.

Another neighbor keeps several beehives. These bees aren’t taking it easy, either. In fact, our neighbor warned us that the bees are pretty much jerks right now and we should stay clear of them. It’s not unlike calling an office ten minutes before closing time.

Again, all secondary concerns for us humans as we take generous bites of caramel apples whilst cavorting on the hayride.

Fall was once the comeuppance of the foolish grasshopper at the hands, er, legs of the industrious ant. But our economy counts on us all to be grasshoppers now. The ants have long been replaced by machines, those poor little hexapods. They work at the Dollar General now. (Legal Counsel: Not literally. This is a metaphor).

For us, this season is a cosmetic wonder. We order hot drinks again instead of cold drinks. There’s a fun moment where you remember there’s more caffeine in a gas station coffee than there is in a Diet Coke. Whee! September rocks!

The lawn slows down. I go banging around in the back shed of my mind for my high school math skills to calculate whether I have enough gas in the can to get to the end of mowing season. I think so?

The dirt digging is behind us. The snow shoveling ahead. This is the perfect season for an imperfect species like ourselves.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.


  1. Caramel apples are great until you realize the caramel’s all gone and you still have most of the apple left. I actually love apples. I don’t really like being sticky though. Basically impossible to be content with an apple on a stick. Whole thing is just a recipe for disappointment. Caramel on the side, sliced apples, and dipping is really where its at.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.