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OPINION: The glorious warmth of Indian summer

If you were to ask me what time of year I like best, my answer would be fall.

A friend of mine would say winter. She says there is nothing like cross-country skiing through the mountains where the only sound you hear is the crackling of the snow as the skis glide over the frozen earth.

An avid gardener I know in Islip can't wait to plant the first peas on St. Joseph's Day in March. Her hands have been itching to get back to the soil and feel it between her fingers.

My grandchildren say it is summer. They delight in the warm sunshine of carefree days without lessons and homework. Splishing, splashing and diving are what they like best.

But I like the fall. There is a quietness about this time of year, a winding down time. The summer colors brighten the days but the brilliance of the autumn flowers saturate the landscape. All that the eye can see is in Technicolor, a riotous blend of color, an artist's wonderland.

As I sit at the beach at East Islip Marina with the sun warming my back, I can hear the sound of tiny ripples splashing against the water's edge and a train whistle far off in the distance. I begin to wonder about the season of fall and why this beautiful time of year is called Indian summer.

Roget's Thesaurus tells us that Indian summer is a "brief period in the fall when we have a temporary return of summer's warm climate.'' It is a season, "well known in England though they refer to it by names of various saints; St. Martin's summer, St. Luke's summer."

Another explanation is that the autumn sun and rains are meant to prepare the earth to receive voluminous coats of snow. I like to reflect on the notion that the earth is a receiver and is provided for during the winter that will follow, so it may yield its fruits the following summer.

John Greenleaf Whittier called it "the warm light of our skies; the Indian Summer of our heart!" He mused, "Perhaps in the Indian Summer of his life he may put his heart into a poem."

As in all moments, times and seasons of beauty, one is always at a loss to describe serenity, peace, good fortune, blessing and happiness. However, the calming of my body, mind and spirit has an Indian summerish effect on me.

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