Autumn as a time of bright leaves and crisp days is so much a part of the U.S. psyche that these images are the ones I see this time of years: the ones I read in other people’s journals, hear from friends on the phone, even see in prayerbooks for the Jewish New Year: turning leaves and shivery air and heavy sweaters as signs of turning and change.

Except of course in the desert, autumn comes with different images and tells a different story. It’s warm winds blowing the monsoon clouds away, it’s dry air and hot days, it’s cool nights in which the air grows clear and still, and the moon gains new power to turn the world to silver. It’s the green growth of summer turning, not to red and orange and yellow, but to brown and to dust. It’s the slow ebbing of summer, not with the wistful hint of the sleep of winter down the road, but with the joy of the coming of a more wakeful time, a season where the air is lighter, the sun’s angle gentler. A season where one emerges from a sort of hibernation rather than moves into it.

My first year here, it was very strange to celebrate Rosh Hashanah on a hundred degree day, beneath a blinkingly bright blue sky. Now, I feel autumn’s changes as surely as I did in more temperate climes, though their meanings are not quite the same.

This is the season of scouring winds and startling stillnesses. It’s the season when the weight of rain clouds and the energy of lightning and storm move away.

It’s a season of clarity.

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