The light in autumn

The light here is different than it was at home.  The summer days are longer, the winter days are shorter.  The angle of the light changes more noticeably throughout the year — in the winter here, even at noon, the sun is not overhead and we get, at best, a kind of weak sunlight that is neither very cheering nor very warming, even on the brightest of days.  In the autumn, the light is beautiful.  It is mostly golden, and has that wonderful “late afternoon” look all day long.  Everything touched by the sunlight looks like it’s glowing, and the trees, already golden, look like they’re on fire when the light catches them.  Sometime in the fall, the sun stops coming in directly through our kitchen window in the afternoons, and in the mornings, it no longer comes through our living room windows.  We have to wait again until spring comes around again to see it streaming across the floor.  As the autumn moves towards winter, we lose the “afternoon” effect of the light and move into a state where it seems to be perpetually early evening — a state which persists throughout the winter.

Just now, it is spring again, and we’ve begun to get our sunlight back.  Sitting in the living room in the mornings, the sun shines directly on our couch now — something it hasn’t done since the fall.  Just a few days ago, I was suddenly blinded by a ray of sunlight coming through the window, and I had a moment of confusion until I remembered that yes, that is normal — we just haven’t seen it for a while.  Spring is here, and we’re finally getting our sunlight back.

Again, autumn

We woke up this morning to cool, crisp air.  Fall comes on pretty early in Vienna.  A few weeks ago, near the end of August, we woke up one morning and we knew that summer was over.  That’s how it happens here.  Something in the air and the light changes, and you just know that summer has left Vienna and it won’t be back until June or July next year.  The heat is gone, there is no more humidity, the breezes are cool, the evening starts to come noticeably earlier.  Summer was over.

Today feels like the next piece of the transformation.  Today doesn’t just feel like “not summer”, today feels like fall.  It’s still warm today, but last night was quite cool.  Each morning, for the past few days, there have been little piles of leaves in the courtyards and at the bottom of the escalators in the U-bahn stations.  I know we’ll use the a/c less and less, it will start to rain more often, and, in what feels like just moments, it will be time to bundle up the whole family every time we leave the house.

For now, though, it’s fall, my favorite season.  And fall in Vienna is really lovely.  Cool, crisp, breezy and beautiful.  Vienna is such a lovely city, and there are so many outdoor areas to explore.  The pumpkins are showing up at the market already (to eat, not to carve), as well as the apples.  Fall has arrived.  And now that I have some free time (Liam is doing a great job of adjusting to school — I think tomorrow may be my first day of not lingering in the area of the school, just in case he needs me), I am looking forward to exploring.

The elements

I’ve always considered myself to be an outdoorsy person.  I like to be outside.  I’m a horseback rider, and have been for over 25 years.  I’ve taught riding, on and off for years, too.  I like to walk outside, go camping and swim, too.  So, it has come as a bit of a shock to me that now, with no outdoor hobbies, I am more in touch with the weather and it’s slight permutations than I ever have been before.

Part of it is our apartment.  At home, we lived in a north-facing apartment with windows on only one wall.  At both of my last two jobs, before leaving the workforce when Benjamin was born, I rarely even saw outside, and was only out in the weather on my way to or from work.  On the other hand, our apartment here has windows on all 4 sides, and a terrace in the middle.  I can go outside without leaving my apartment.  We don’t have central air, and (ironically) our heat is somewhat centrally controlled by the City of Vienna (I’m still learning about how this works, as it’s just starting to get cold).  I’m much more aware of the amount of cloud cover, precipitation and temperature than I ever have been before while indoors, to be sure.  Now that Benjamin is in school, I also have an hour long commute to pick him up and bring him home every day.

I don’t have a car, so when I do go out, into the weather, it’s not just a quick dash from door to car, and then from car to school and back.  I’m out, walking in the weather (whatever it may be) at least every weekday.

Today was a rainy, cold day in Vienna.  It was a major reminder of something I’ve been slowly realizing:  I can’t just grit my teeth, “make do” and get through the weather in Vienna (especially the upcoming winter).  Today was rough, and it’s October.  We just don’t have the equipment.  My boys have rain coats, but not enough layering pieces to put underneath when it’s cold and rainy but not so inclement as to pull out the winter parkas.  And, their legs are mostly unprotected from the elements (particularly an issue for Liam, who is in the stroller, legs out).  Neither of them have rain boots (or, for that matter, snow boots) right now.  I don’t own a functional umbrella.

When I first got here, I was surprised by all the “weather gear” I saw.  The Viennese seem to have about 12 different kinds of coats, twice that many kinds of footwear, scarves for use in all types of weather (literally — they wear them in July), plus hats, gloves, mittens, balaclavas.  They have rain covers as well as snow buntings for their strollers.  Their strollers even have holsters for their umbrellas.

Today was a good lesson in outerwear.  I wore my raincoat and boots — I was fine.  Benjamin wore his raincoat and sneakers — he was ok, but was worried about getting his light-up shoes in the rain puddles, lest it short them out (not something I had thought of?).  Poor Liam.  I put him in fleece pajamas, to make sure he was snug and covered, and then put his raincoat on top.  His clothes got pretty wet, but he stayed dry.  Of course, once we went inside the trains and the school, he got overheated in about a second.

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It’s only October.  I need to get myself equipped.

Fall is in the air

Appropriately enough, given that autumn arrives this week, fall is definitely in the air here in Vienna.  It’s still warm during the day, but the cool air descends quickly once the sun goes down . . . which is happening earlier every day.  The air is crisp, the breezes are cool, the nights are chilly.

The residential heating in Vienna is controlled in a central location, and it hasn’t been turned on yet for the fall (reminds me of my college days).  I don’t mind, though — after a summer of being too hot a lot of the time, I’m rather enjoying bundling up in warm clothes on the few cold days we’ve had so far.

I love the feeling of cool autumn air.  I get absolutely giddy about it.  I went out to get a cup of tea at Starbucks this evening after Dan got home, and walking down the street, I was nearly skipping.  I can’t help it — I get excited about the coming fall.  I love everything about it — the cooler temperatures, the early evenings, the sunlight in the autumn, the pumpkins, the celebration of harvest, Halloween, warm apple cider and warmer clothes.  I love it all.  I am excited that fall is coming, and I’m curious to see how it’s different here.  I know there will be things from home that I miss, but I also suspect that the Austrian tendency to truly celebrate the season will make for quite an experience.

The light is changing

I was outside this evening, around 6:00, and everything looked just a little bit off . . . like when it’s about to storm, but it wasn’t.  The sunlight was different — it was subtler.  Instead of bathing everything in bright light, it was just subdued enough to highlight and illuminate instead.

Fall is coming.  It’s still July.  I think we may have a long, dark winter ahead of us.  I see a time, in my very near future, where I am kicking myself and eating every word I said about the long, hot days we’ve had so far.

On the plus side, the kids are sleeping later, and we’re getting them to bed earlier.  And I love the fall, so if what we get is a long, drawn out period of beautiful light, warm days and cool nights, that would be absolutely fantastic.  Today was absolutely beautiful — it was about 70 degrees as a high, and very windy — I actually ordered a hot tea at Starbucks and drank it inside, because it was too cold and windy outside for me to really enjoy myself (although I did try for about 20 minutes).

It’s JULY.  Oh, dear.