Sunday, October 05, 2008

Adapting Tradition

London has taken on that particular smell I associate with autumn. The air is crisper, somehow cleaner, and fallen leaves crackle as I walk through the park. It's a hint of the oncoming winter, but there's enough nice weather that I don't need my thick coat yet. It's that back-to-school, raking leaves, harvested corn, pumpkins-on-the-porch time I remember from being a kid. Trick-or-treating isn't far off and the last desperate days of playing outside before winter fill afternoons.

Autumn is my favorite season. It's the time when I feel most alive, and I love the world around me more.

It's also the time for one of the few personal traditions I actually follow: my yearly reading of Washington Irving's short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I'm not sure how long I've done this, but I have a distinct memory of reading it in the autumn in the 9th grade, and I know I bought my current copy in 1995, so it's been about 15 years or so. There's just one problem: my current copy is in a storage unit about 9000 miles away from my flat.

So like other traditions, I have to adapt it a bit. This evening the Beautiful Competition made a gorgeous pumpkin pie because she happened to find canned pumpkin one day at the store; she had not seen it there before, and has not seen it since. It may not taste exactly the same, but it's as close as we can get.

And it's not going to be my well-worn Classics copy, but there are at least two different free versions online, so it looks like I'll be able to read my favorite seasonal story - even if it is on a printout or a computer screen.

    In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee, and where they always prudently shortened sail and implored the protection of St. Nicholas when they crossed, there lies a small market town or rural port, which by some is called Greensburgh, but which is more generally and properly known by the name of Tarry Town. This name was given, we are told, in former days, by the good housewives of the adjacent country, from the inveterate propensity of their husbands to linger about the village tavern on market days. Be that as it may, I do not vouch for the fact, but merely advert to it, for the sake of being precise and authentic. Not far from this village, perhaps about two miles, there is a little valley or rather lap of land among high hills, which is one of the quietest places in the whole world. A small brook glides through it, with just murmur enough to lull one to repose; and the occasional whistle of a quail or tapping of a woodpecker is almost the only sound that ever breaks in upon the uniform tranquillity.
Ah, autumn.

1 comment:

Sam said...

Fascinating. The only thing that winter means where I live is that shirts are no longer entirely optional.