This morning, paging through an old book of recipes, I came across a photo of a savory mushroom tart–oh! those perfectly browned fungi floating in a custard base!– on an acorn-themed place setting. In just that one instant, summer turned a corner.

It happens every year: that moment in August when I suddenly remember autumn, the afternoon light golden and smooth as butternut squash soup, the textures and colors richer than any other season. My mind says, “It’s too soon. Too soon. There’s still summer left to enjoy, still peaches at the farmer’s market, still a day at the water park to plan. Still a couple of warm evenings to dream of twinkle lights and romance.”

I’ve made a good go of it this year, taken advantage of the sunshine and made my own happiness. I’ve created sweet memories not just for myself but for other people too. I’m proud of that, but now my heart is ready. The timing feels right and good. I’ve stroked the first orange bruise on a vine maple leaf and last night I dreamt of pumpkins. The figs are swelling, and if I am very lucky they will ripen before the farm passes into new hands. There’s a gentle melancholy in the air. This will be the first year I won’t be with the kids on Halloween. They’ll go trick-or-treating without me, dressed in pirate costumes they picked out last week, and my heart will break a little.

I know it will be okay. Sad, yes, but there will be other Halloweens and I can find dozens of ways to celebrate fall with my boys, new rituals with just the three of us that will be intentional and meaningful. Maybe we’ll hand-dip caramel apples on the first day of October. Maybe we’ll serve dinner at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving or learn to shoot arrows into bales of hay. It’s a new season and a new life.

I think, too, I’ll plan a wine-tasting trip for my friends, and pack a surprise picnic to enjoy amidst luminous vines heavy with clusters of black grapes. We’ll sit under maple trees on a crimson carpet and eat fresh figs with goat cheese and local honey, and cake dense with cocoa and hazelnuts.

And a mushroom tart, so fragrant and perfect it makes me cry.

~Kellelynne H. Riley