I say, “Fall.”

You think … ?

OK, hard to play that game here, but I would guess that your word associations may include such things as school (school supplies … freedom!), Thanksgiving, family … maybe even that dreaded word – snow.

Now that your head is teeming with fall thoughts, I’ll tell you the first thought I have, upon seeing the first coloured leaf, each fall; the same one I have had these past 31 years (it’s amazing how powerful associations are).

I spot a leaf, usually a gold leaf, and two lines of poetry spring to mind: “Along the line of smoky hills / The crimson forest stands”.

And those lines have me longing to see the hills turning to gold and crimson. It’s kind of like a “death wish,” really, as one lady told me her first fall thought is, “The kiss of death.”

This association of mine began when a seventh-grade English teacher, in Bengough, Saskatchewan, asked each of us, in his classroom, to memorize that poem.

I wasn’t big on poetry, back then, but now I appreciate its beauty and I love to read it. I’ve even tried my hand at writing it.

This poem, Indian Summer, by William Wilfred Campell, has staked a claim in my heart and will, no doubt, be a faithful companion until memory serves me no more.

And, of course, associations have their own associations.

I see the leaf; I think fall; followed immediately by “Along the line of smoky hills / The crimson forest stands”. And my next thought, after longing to see the “crimson forest”, is I want to drive to Haines Junction. I take stock, gauging how long it will be until the leaves turn and when it would be the most breathtaking … mid-September?

And mid-September triggers yet another association: my birthday (my years number over half a century, this year). Alas, I did not celebrate the birth of fall – and my birth – with a drive, this year. Next year – absolutely.

See how one word, one thought, leads to another, which leads to another and another …

It got me thinking how important these associations are. Word associations hearken to distant childhood memories that we can embrace and treasure.

In case you think a poem is all I think of when I think fall, I’ll let you in on a few more things that I associate with fall.

Christmas. There, I said it. And I believe I am the first columnist to say it this year.

The tourists are gone. I should explain … I enjoy the tourists. I’ve even been one, myself, on many an occasion. But the streets are blissfully quiet in the fall. I can feel my shoulders relax; I can breathe a sigh of relief; I can even sing while I drive. Driving, in Whitehorse, becomes so much more relaxed when tourist season ends.

I also think of such things as home-made soup, Thanksgiving (which, in turn, triggers thoughts of all that I am thankful for), turkey, snow and that nagging question: Where are those mitts?

I leave you with this parting thought: Winter.