Today seemed like the first real day of autumn in Moscow. It wasn’t September 1st, when fall officially kicks off in Russia, and every person from the age of 6 to 21 suddenly reappears on the city streets after three months at the dacha. It wasn’t September 20-something, when the sun decides to do its equilibrium thing, dictating the change of seasons to the western countries. It wasn’t the first day it got cold or gray or wet, or the first time this year I wrapped a cashmere scarf around my neck, or spotted a yellow leaf on a still-green lawn.
It wasn’t any of these things in particular, yet it was all of them, in some way, at once.
The slow, steady rain. The gray but not-too-heavy clouds. The chill in the air trying to push out the lingering cozy comfort of summer. Muscovites who have already traded in their shrouds of neons and florals for those in black, navy and gray. Students rushing to class. Umbrellas. Red ashberry clusters. Many, many yellow leaves peppered all over still-green lawns.
This year Moscow was short-changed its legendary Russian Golden Autumn. Our summer was dry, and by late August, instead of turning bright yellow, tree crowns around the city were stained with spots of tired brown. The rain that finally came in September was – as it so often happens with so many things in life – a case of too little, too late. So this is an autumn of a different order– one in which brightness has retreated and grayness is creeping over.
But in every order there are bound to be rebels – and nature is no exception. Nothing brings me more delight on a day like this than spotting them. The little shrubs here and there that refused to surrender their foliage to the oppressive drought, and now defiantly are lighting up the gloomiest corners of the city with golden leaves. Or it might be a particularly resilient branch of an ancient maple tree – a mighty, muscly arm extended in protest. Or, as a last resort, the triumphant fireworks of autumnal blooms erupting along tame sidewalks.
Winter might be coming – but it is not here yet. And autumn is having its day.