Autumnal Melancholy

As the days shorten and temperatures cool, the daylight changes its look. The burnished colors of summer lighten as the mists dissipate and the sunshine purifies. The rich azure of the sky pales to a bright, gentle blue. The landscape sharpens. Trees shine green. The air turns brisk.

As nights become longer than days, a few errant leaves change color. Their number grows, and they begin to drop. The end of the year lies ahead. Denying it, pretending otherwise, putting the thought out of your mind doesn’t work. Nothing can stop it.

During my years in Vietnam, I all but forgot autumn. The end of the summer there meant the last of the monsoons and a time of relative ease, temperatures dropping as low as eighty. The heat and humidity, for a time, stopped robbing me of comfort. As readers have noted, Last of the Annamese plays out between November and April. None of the characters give much thought to the weather until rains, unheard of in April, herald the fall of Saigon.

Back in the world (the U.S.) after the conquest of South Vietnam by the North, I was, for the first time in years, acutely conscious of the moderate summer and the onset of fall. Now, forty-two years later, autumn feels melancholy to me. As I age, I feel the approaching end of the year like the coming end of my life. I find myself remembering the words of “September Song,” as sung by Frank Sinatra in 1965:

Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December

But the days grow short when you reach September

When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame

One hasn’t got time for the waiting game


Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few

September, November

And these few precious days I’ll spend with you

These precious days I’ll spend with you

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