My Secret Fall Delight – The Smell Of Burning Leaves


Many people list spring as their absolute favorite season, and who can argue with that? New flowers after a long winter brighten the hardest heart. But I am one who lives for autumn and its incredible sensual delights. While the fragrant roses may have passed, the invigorating yet comforting smell of crackling fires and burning autumn leaves utterly fills up my senses.

Outdoor Scents in Fall, from Sweet to Acrid

The sweet smell of apples ripening in the orchard. Crimson and orange leaves flaming on the maple. The spicy odor of pumpkin pies in the oven. The rich fragrance of hot cocoa in a mug. The burnt-sugar smell of marshmallows roasting. The crisp, clean, blank pages in new notebooks ready for the school year. The soft, sweet fragrance of the rain clouds approaching.

It’s hard not to be head-over-heels in love with the sights and smells of autumn. It is, for me, the sensual season, where the entire world of nature seems to put on an incredible party to celebrate the end of summer.

Fall as a New Beginning

For me, it is a time of beginnings, not endings. That may sound strange, since many consider fall as a nostalgic moment to think back on joys that came and disappeared during the bright, sunny months of summer.

But I have been a perpetual student, going from my community college days to a four-year university for my BA, then getting a masters and other degrees. And in between the degree programs, I have taken many classes. Like what? I’ve done extensive language classes, motorcycle training, photography courses, botany classes and a lengthy program to train as a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. I have taught English literature and English conversation classes in France.

Most of these programs and courses began… you guessed it! They began in the fall, so that is why I feel my life blood quickening as the leaves begin to fall.

Favorite Fall Smell

My favorite fall smell is the heady, evocative smell of outdoor fires, and especially burning leaves. Given the truly destructive wildfires that have caused loss of life, property and forests in both California and France, I am slightly hesitant to admit this. Fire can be an incredibly destructive force.

Yet nothing says “fall” to me in a more powerful way than the snap and crackle of a small fire in the backyard, especially when the sweet, acrid smell of burning dried leaves is part of it. I heat my home in France with wood, so there is always a bit of a fire on cool evenings, but the joy of sitting by the outdoor fire pit, with its dancing flames and pluming smoke, is truly a sensual experience.

And then there are the foods I cook on outdoor fires, starting with the traditional marshmallows, but not limited to them. Roasting vegetables, seared veggie burgers, baked potatoes buried in the ashes: all adding delicious fragrances with promises of delicious eating ahead.


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