Several days of temperatures in the 90s have masked the advent of fall here in Napa. While fall in Northern California does not mean the profusion of colors that miles of hardwood forests produce in the northeast, the change in seasons is signaled by a variety of locally familiar signposts. The gingko trees are the first to turn, predictably from solid green to solid yellow. They’re followed by the liquid ambers ubiquitously planted by suburban landscapers starting about 40 years ago. The liquid ambers are less predictable than the gingkos, and their colors more closely resemble the variety visible in the hills and mountains of New England. The leaves still on the vines of our freshly harvested vineyards turn as well, creating tidy patches of fall-color landscapes throughout the valley.
The early days of fall are often deceptive, as they are this year. The high temperatures persist and create the illusion of an endless summer. Beneath the heat, however, the end is beginning, and at some point within the next few weeks it will seem as if someone threw a switch. The heat and life of summer will give way to the end; fall will once again provide a brief interlude before the dead and dormant season returns.
Our expectation is that the cycle will continue, that the end marked by fall and winter will be routinely ephemeral, and that spring will follow with its promise of renewal. Our generalized view of the world reinforces our expectation. When we look closer, however, we see the last repetition of the cycle for some, we see a fall that signals an end, a winter from which there is no return. And as I more frequently witness the final winter of those whose lives filled my springs and summers, the gratitude I feel for their having been part of my life grows to the point that youthful regrets are often conquered by the satisfaction of age.