As summer fades away and I settle into the Spanish lifestyle, I have been searching for signs of fall, my favorite season. Photography is an obvious way to capture the season of change. Rest assured, my camera has been a key component of my quest, but I have also found myself tangled in my American notion of the season, and thus searching for a more philosophical, cross-cultural definition of autumn.
For me, fall is a period of time marking two types of change. First, it is an event created by atmospheric forces affecting our physical environment. For example, the northern hemisphere tilts away from the sun. We notice that the days become shorter, the temperatures drop, frost covers the lawn and plants cease to grow. These are visible manifestations that summer is gone and winter is to come.
The second change comes as a result of the global climate. As fall settles over Wisconsin, peak colors paint the treetops and we see our breath as puffy clouds. We develop different behaviors compared to summer. We adopt a new diet, new clothes and new activities during this period.
Pumpkin and apple pies are the first images when I think of autumn. Local farmers markets no longer sell bunches of radishes, green onions and asparagus. Instead, displays of gourds and crates of apples fill their stalls.
This shift in produce is a result of the planet's tilt and rotation around the sun. In response, humans have created a food culture as one way to celebrate this phase of the year.
Another way we enjoy fall is filling out closets with autumn fashion as temperatures drop: tall leather boots, thick sweaters, turtlenecks and corduroys. These human creations help us welcome (or survive, if you prefer spring and summer) the arrival of fall. And what do you do while waiting for the apple pie to bake? You tie a scarf around your neck, pull on some boots and rake a pile of leaves in the yard. Again, atmospheric goings-on result in red, orange and brown leaf litter, and in my neighborhood, we have developed an activity of raking them up. Other activities made possible by fall: football season (could you imagine wearing those pads in summer?), apple picking and pumpkin carving.
In setting out to find fall in Zamora, I mistakenly searched for these American cultural characteristics of the season. While warm boots and sweaters are also fashionable for cold weather in Spain, I have yet to see a rake, a pie or a hayride. This, however, does not mean that fall is a non-existent season here; it means I'm not in Kansas — I mean Wisconsin — anymore.
My hunt continues. For now, I have found fall in Zamora's brown, crispy leaves, chestnuts and 8:30 a.m. sunrises. To find answers about fall culture, I must abandon America's autumnal tropes. I will be seeking out the advice and knowledge of a Spaniard. Hopefully she can tell me what it means when fall is in the air in Spain.