Cafe Writing: Feels Like Fall

No man can taste the fruits of autumn while he is delighting his scent with the flowers of spring.
– Samuel Johnson

In improvisation, one of our exercises is a game called “Seven Things,” in which we go around in a circle giving each other the challenge, “Give me seven things that [whatever].” We are not going to go around in a circle here, but if you’re drawn to lists, this prompt is for you.

So, give me seven tastes or scents that define autumn for you.

  1. Ozone. Autumn rain smells sharper than the rain we get in summer.
  2. Smoke. It’s not quite time yet, here in Texas, but once the evening temperatures dip lower than 63 on a routine basis, fireplaces are put to use once more.
  3. Squash. Fall brings pumpkins into vogue, of course, but it also means a return to hardier squashes: acorn, butternut, spaghetti, instead of crookneck and zucchini. I love both the scent and the flavor of harvest squashes.
  4. Apple cider. Sure, it’s available all year round, but it’s only in autumn that you can visit a fair or festival for freshly pressed cider. Sweetened or not, hard or not, with or without cinnamon, chilled or steamed, cider is the one thing that really means that summer is waning, at least for me.
  5. Soup. I love soup. Once the weather begins to turn, it becomes my habit to make soups and stews on the weekend. There’s nothing like something warm and spicy bubbling on the stove or in the crockput, available whenever either of us takes a break from whatever project we’re puttering with.
  6. Heat. I know heaters and furnaces aren’t supposed to have scents, but after a summer of disuse, there’s still a dusty musty smell the first few times we have the heat on in the mornings. It should trigger allergies, but somehow it smells comforting, instead.
  7. Caramel corn. I don’t eat it very often, but there’s something really warming about the buttery/sweet/salty scent and flavor of caramel corn, especially when it’s combined with a rainy day and a great movie.

Written for the Anniversary Project at

Chasing Shadows

For me, shadows generally come in the form of restlessness and lack of focus, rather than deep depression. Whatever the cause though, there are things I do to chase them away. Here are seven.

  1. Sing. Like a little kid, when no one’s around, if I have the time, I can perform entire musicals in my living room.
  2. Dance. Tap, mainly. Sometimes I use the railing of our upstairs hallway and do barre work – it’s kind of Zen. Other times it’s just mindless grooving to whatever music I hear.
  3. Soak. I’ve always responded to water, and taking a bath is completely comforting. Warm water, scented bubbles, a good book, and NPR for company.
  4. Read. I have a shelves full of “comfort books,” – novels I know as well as I know my closest friends. Re-reading them is like visiting home.
  5. Bake. It’s impossible to feel at all blue when there’s something in the oven – bread, chocolate, cinnamon. Doesn’t matter.
  6. Swim. Bubble baths are good for relaxing, but a swim is refreshing. Invigorating. And involves sunshine. Usually.
  7. Sleep. I used to hate sleeping, but now I find it restorative. Also, a bit of melatonin now and then guarantees deep, restful sleep with lovely dreams.

If writing seems conspicuously absent from this list, it’s only because writing is a constant for me, like breathing. It’s there whether there are shadows or not.

For the July/August editon of CafeWriting