Down South, It's A Sleeveless Autumn

Much of the country may feel a nip in the air, but in the Lower South, summer's in no hurry to leave.

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REBECCA ROBERTS, host:

Fall officially began nearly two weeks ago, but down in Florida, where essayist Diane Roberts lives, summer is in no hurry to pack up and leave.

DIANE ROBERTS: Far more than spring, autumn brings a sense of rejuvenation, of endless possibility, of pumpkins and Christmas right around the corner. Corduroy and cashmere beckon seductively from the covers of fashion magazines, and the department stores want to sell you boots and sweaters.

The sun has crossed the celestial equinox, so a new phase of the year has officially begun. But the problem is that the temperature here in the lower South missed the change-of-seasons memo. It's still hotter than possums fighting in a wool sack.

The boys at Florida State and Georgia, LSU and Alabama, are playing football, though there's no football weather in sight. If you want crisp, eat an icebox pickle.

You still need the air conditioner, you're still wearing the summer cottons and the leaves on the sweet gum trees are still resolutely green. The only place you'll see deep red and gold leaves is in a shop window - they're made of paper. And the only place it feels remotely autumnal is in the mall.

The air is a fine 60-something degrees in there, brisk as a New England morning. In the mall, you can pretend that the first frost is just days away. You can contemplate wearing sleeves you haven't done that since April. You try on that hunter green dress, that camel coat, that glen plaid skirt. Not that you can wear any of those clothes any time soon. Late October, maybe.

Inside the mall, you'd think it was practically Thanksgiving, or at least Halloween. Not that the pumpkins have gotten ripe yet. Outside, the summer flowers impatiens, zinnias, ginger lilies are still blooming.

But when the frost finally comes, the heater kicks on, and the nights become sharp and starry, you'll button up that sweater and feel that finally you've caught up with the calendar.

ROBERTS: Diane Roberts is a professor of creative writing at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Shes eagerly awaiting a good freeze.

(Soundbite of song, "Autumn Leaves")

Mr. NAT KING COLE: (Singing) The falling leaves, drift by the window, the autumn leaves, of red and gold. I see your lips, the summer kisses, the sunburned hands, I used to hold...

ROBERTS: This is NPR News.

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