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Fall in the Fillmore


Text & Photographs by BARBARA WYETH

My dear Aunt Fordy, who lived her life in Iowa, loved the fall, especially October. I happen to agree. It’s the best month of the year. She always called it “lovely blue October,” never just plain October. And there is a special color in the sky during the autumn months: clearer, richer and bluer than any other time of year.

Having now lived more than half my life in San Francisco, I am still amazed at how one season quickly morphs into another. In the fall, this yearly change seems especially sneaky because our seasons are not like the big, dramatic, showy displays of an autumnal east coast or midwest.

I’ve learned to love our blue October. True, it is much more subtle, but fall definitely makes its appearance. The air changes and our extraordinary light presents itself differently; dusk is more rosy, the clouds often the most dramatic of the entire year, sunsets frequently glorious.

This time of year, in neighborhood yards and pocket gardens, roses produce another round of blooms — never quite as lush as spring, but more precious perhaps because other things are going dormant. Showy dahlias may still be blooming their last hurrah. Hydrangeas turn red and freckle, their leaves taking on russets and gold like midwestern maples. The sycamores on California Street dry up and lose their leaves early on. The bright green leaves on the liquid amber trees on Washington Street turn red and drop, although they seem to do that year around.

In the yard behind my apartment building, the pear tree’s leaves turn gold. So do those on our beloved but straggly old lilac bush. The bougainvillea is still brilliant red, however, and in full bloom, and there is still lots of green everywhere. Our autumn is never dreary.

Maybe even more telling of the seasonal change in our neighborhood is the sudden appearance after Labor Day of Halloween at Walgreens: candy corn, harvest mix, miniature chocolate bars and bright orange plastic jack-o-lanterns. Pumpkin lattes show up in the coffee shops. Pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin spice everything appear at bakeries and cafes. The grocery stores and farmers markets fill with squash and gourds and pomegranates. Apples abound.

All along Fillmore Street, shop windows show snuggly sweaters and chunky boots and footwear, and in the early morning, the Hamlin girls in their maroon capes hurry to school, hand in hand with mom or dad.

It’s fall in the Fillmore.