"The air is perfectly quiescent and all is stillness, as if Nature, after her exertions during the summer, were now at rest."
(John Bradbury, 1817)
We didn't know if it would arrive, but Indian Summer is here at last. It promises to be 73 degrees tomorrow!
The American Meteorology Society defines Indian Summer as "a time interval, in mid- or late autumn, of unseasonably warm weather, generally with clear skies, sunny but hazy days and cool nights. At least one killing frost and a substantial period of cool weather must precede this warm spell for it to be considered true Indian Summer. It can last a few days or a few weeks.
Walt Whitman was elegaic about Indian Summer: "that wonderous second wind" with its "mellow, rich, delicate, almost flavoured air: Enough to live -- enough to merely be."
In Europe, Indian Summer is sometimes called St. Luke's Summer, as the saint's feast day is October 18. In Italy, Portugal and Galicia (Northern Spain) it is observed with festivals or celebrations of Celtic origins in which bonfires, roasted chestnuts and wine have an important role.
The term Indian Summer has been used for at least two centuries. The term's first appearance in writing is credited to St. John de Crevecoeur in rural New York in 1778. "Sometimes the rain is followed by an interval of calm and warmth which is called Indian Summer," he wrote. "Its characteristics are a tranquil atmosphere and a general smokiness."
The spoken phrase probably originated with the Colonists. Does it actually have anything to do with Native Americans? Possibly. It may have been called Indian Summer because this was the traditional Native American harvest and hunting season. Or, Native Americans may have used this time to conduct raids on the settlers before winter set in.
Another theory is that the predominantly Southwest winds that accompanied the Indian Summer period were regarded by the Indians as a favor or blessing from the Great Spirit.
Early settlers may have equated Indian Summer with Fool's Summer, as it lulls us all into thinking that winter is still very far away.
There is a harmony In autumn, and a lustre in its sky, Which through the summer is not heard or seen, As if it could not be, as if it had not been!
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.
The gilding of the Indian summer mellowed the pastures far and wide. The russet woods stood ripe to be stripped, but were yet full of leaf. The purple of heath-bloom, faded but not withered, tinged the hills...