French Friday: The Magic of Fall

When I arrived in California from Paris I had no idea that Americans called autumn fall.

I really fell for the season’s magnificent gifts when my family lived in New England. It’s truly magical, I kept telling everyone around me. New Englanders smiled politely, used to the compliment. I pressed leaves so colorful they seemed painted between the pages of my dictionaries and later sent them all the way to France.

Away from the Northeast, I’ve learned to track the more subtle ways nature signals the arrival of fall.

In Southern California for the last week, sadly without my husband who for business reasons could not join me, I traveled from one place to another, often by foot. Quiet witness of the delicate shifts in the air, I missed my husband’s voice in my ear, his arm looped around mine, his jokes and laugh that can lift the thickest fog, but I felt so thankful to our children for taking me to their own cherished places.


7 A.M. fog in Torrey Pines State Reserve in San Diego County

I almost expected to see my husband, waiting for me on this bench seated above the Pacific

A plane cut through a perfect blue sky above the Liberty Public Market, in Point Loma San Diego where my daughter invited me for a Thai lunch, food we both adore

Pepper plants in bloom in Los Angeles County

SoCal Beauties, still in Los Angeles County

And everywhere through this part of the Golden State, the distinct colors of fall 

Fall remains only a name for another month in SoCal. The hottest days are behind, but the Santa Ana winds can still blow warm air and the rain remains a distant dream.


Awaiting for rain, plants are dormant along the trail that leads to Cowles Mountains in San Diego

The 1,593-foot (486 m) summit is the highest point of the city of San Diego

My daughter took me up to the less dusty, more urban, still steep Secret Stairs in La Mesa, San Diego County…

…and then down…

Fall is maybe only a name in SoCal. Yet the change of season is here.


Hot Tea Replaces Iced Tea

Red Is the New Color

Overcast morning on the Pacific means

sun-drenched afternoon

Magically, new books make their way to bookstores, here at Warwick’s in La Jolla, San Diego.

Speaking of which, I read two magical books over this trip.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton is an unusual story that explores the meaning of love through several generations of people. A friend lent it to me, probably because the family has deep roots in France and also because the novel is filled with mouth-watering baked goods 🙂

I was not immediately drawn to the novel, mostly because it targets Young Adults and I found it very different from most novels in this genre. I suspect that older readers (college students, for example) and even adults will appreciate the beauty and meaning of the story more than teenagers. Anyway, it took me a few pages to be fully immersed, but soon the exquisite writing and the original pulled me in. Gorgeously crafted, filled with lots of sensory details and irresistible baking this book was a magical companion to my trip.

I hadn’t anticiped to read another novel filled with magic realism. But I’m a sucker for Middle Grade books and I knew I had to read The Incredible Magic of Being by Kathryn Erskine. She’s one of the biggest names in children’s literature and each and every of her books is a gem. I knew I would not be disappointed but didn’t expect to read one of her funniest and yet deepest novel.

Nine-year-old Julian is 100% obsessed with space. He even has imaginary friends in alternate universes. He’s also very scared of water and doesn’t go anywhere without his life jacket. The story of Julian’s family (fourteen-year-old sister Pookie and two moms) moving from bustling Washington, DC to rural Maine to run a lakeside bed-and-breakfast is told through his amazingly fresh and honest voice. Julian loves his family, but he is really tired of Pookie’s typical teenage mood swings. In reality, he misses Pookie’s younger version much more than she annoys him. I loved Pookie!  And loved the siblings’ realistic relationship. Let’s be frank: Julian’s behavior is quite strange, so his overprotective mother, the one he calls Mom wants to homeschool him in order to save him from bullies. Thankfully, his other mother, Joan, is much more laid back. That was cool to see the two mothers acting so differently and yet equally lovingly toward Julian and Pookie. The bed-and-breakfast project derails when the retired neighbor sends a lawyer over because the latest addition to the bed-in-breakfast illegally blocks his water view. Pookie convinces overfriendly Julian to befriend the neighbor to make him drop the lawsuit. The rest is a smartly crafted story packed with stars, dreams, Smores, lots of love, and even dogs.

I hate spoilers, so I won’t say more. Anyway the first sentence of the novel says everything.

“Magic is all around us, but most people never see it.”


A week later, I came home to find out that my husband had also read and loved two books while I was gone.

Fear by the one and only Bob Woodward and Small Fry, the memoir written by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, Steve Jobs’s daughter.

Totally different books from mine. But you know what they say? Opposite attract. It’s magic.


Tomorrow marks the first day of fall. Enjoy its magic and a couple of books, too!

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