Friday, April 20, 2018
Human Interest

The State You're In: Florida's most subtle season

It's autumn in Tampa Bay.

Really.

I know. Recent transplants are staring at the thermometer's red zone in disbelief. And those of you who got here decades ago but can't accept a harvest moon rising over a sailboat rather than a silo are Pricelining tickets to go leaf-peeping in Pennsylvania.

But if you need fiery maples and golden hickories to tell you the season has changed, well, you're not paying attention. Florida's fall is a subtle pleasure.

We've been roasting 24/7 for months in a sticky, unrelenting coastal convection oven. But now it's October, and while waiting in line for lunch at the food truck is admittedly brutal, there's an upside: Your shirt isn't stuck to your back. And you can start having your morning coffee or after-dinner cocktail on the front porch. Outside.

In October, the average low drops to 70 degrees. In November, it's 63. So shut off the AC and sleep with the window open, if that latch hasn't rusted solid. Average rainfall drops from 8.38 inches in August to a mere 2.78 inches in October and less than 2 in November. The result: It doesn't feel so soupy out there. Go on, take the dog for a walk. You could both use the exercise, and neither of you will suffocate — or get swept away by an afternoon flash flood.

Even the light is different. The sun's path across the sky is much lower than it was a few months ago. I don't walk around with a protractor, but the angle of the light brings a gentle alteration to the landscape. It's softer.

Spring brings lavender jacarandas and scarlet poincianas. Fall's colors lean green (or brown, if my herb garden is indicative), but I love the golden rain tree. Covered with striking yellow blossoms all summer, it morphs in fall to an arresting peachy-salmon shade as its canopy is filled with seed pods. (It's an invasive, so please don't plant any more, but it's prolific, so there are plenty to enjoy.)

Where I grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Nov. 15 was a school holiday: the first day of "huntin' season." Here, the signpost of the season is Oct. 15, the first day of stone crab season. Get out the Dijon mustard or drawn butter and rejoice.

Still, if you must have a traditional autumn pleasure, take a Dunkin' Donuts pumpkin mocha to the beach.

It's the little things.

Raised in the Midwest and Northeast, Times staff writer Kate Brassfield has lived on Florida's gulf coast for 16 years.

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