Sliding into autumn

Apples, special yachts, and footballs. It's a trio that heralds the change of season as summer slides reluctantly into autumn. Apple boughs now are laden. Families surge through the orchards picking their own, and earning the dividend of togetherness. Kitchens are suffused with an aroma from Grandmother's era: cinnamon-and-nutmeg mixed with an appley tang, as pies bake and applesauce simmers.

The yachts are the antithesis of this homespun scene. Over 60 feet long, they weigh 50,000 pounds and cost well over a million dollars to build and race. They're competing in the America's Cup, and today two of them - one from the United States, the other from Australia - cross the starting line to open this year's picturesque competition. It's a race usually held every third fall.

But every fall, as regular as frost or taxes, come the footballs now flying across American television screens. High school, college, and professional, football is a tenacious season that doesn't end until. . . well, now that the new professional league has started playing in the spring, it has no end at all - rather like a basketball.

Yet for those of us who can take our sports or leave them alone, these early fall evenings offer a different delight, to be savored in memory year-round. It's the perfect time to cap a day by sitting outside as sun and heat set together. Robins flit and twitter as darkness looms; suddenly, it seems, night and a motionless silence arrive together. It is a time of special peacefulness.

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