Autumn has always been my favorite season in Maine. No doubt this preference puts me in the minority. As a group, we are vastly outnumbered by summer’s sun-worshippers. I’m willing to bet, however, that we are a larger cohort than winter’s warm-blooded champions, or the fifty mud lovers who believe spring is our most glorious season. But any state that calls itself “Vacationland” obviously places a premium on its too-short summer.
Most fans of fall have some specific reason they prefer it. They can point to the return of high school football or the beauty of the turning leaves. Maybe they have an insatiable thirst for apple cider or find wood smoke to be an intoxicant.
My own feelings are harder to pin down. I’m an outdoorsman, so the approach of the fall fishing and hunting seasons inevitably stirs primal emotions in my heart. Also, the annual migration of birds south along the Atlantic Flyway [see Kim Ridley’s story on page 30] is a miracle at which I never cease to marvel. And I can appreciate a blazing red swamp maple as much as anyone. But there’s not one aspect to the season that I can point to and say, “This is why I love the fall.”
Some of it has to do with growing quiet, I’m sure. I always enjoy meeting summer visitors; their enthusiasm for the state is infectious. Besides, tourism is the engine that drives our economy, so it behooves Mainers to be hospitable to our guests.
It helps that they keep finding new reasons to visit. We’ve been lucky to be living through a renaissance in Maine food (although, in truth, it’s more of a birth than a rebirth). And we’re now seeing crowds coming here for the express purpose of sampling the world-class restaurants that have taken root over the past two decades. My late grandparents — who used to buy clawless and tailless lobster bodies and gather around the table, picking out the hard-to-get meat — never could have imagined a time when gourmets would seek out Maine for its cutting-edge cuisine [page 84].
I am grateful for these new tourists, and for those who have been coming here for ages. Maine wouldn’t be Maine without them. But do you know that feeling you get when houseguests leave after an extended stay? That physical sense of relief at having your home once again to yourself? That’s a bit of how I feel about the fall. I will be overjoyed to see my friends and family return next summer, but for the moment I am content to spend some quiet mornings alone on the porch, sipping from a steaming mug of coffee and watching the warblers pass overhead on their way to distant, warmer places.