Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:
The sun moves across the sky more quickly these days, and the once-bright evenings have become cobwebs of darkness.
October drives us into that blind curve of autumn with its increasingly uncertain forecasts. It begins the time of year when out-of-town trips are penciled-in on our calendars because the weather may not allow safe passage.
Considering how hot and miserable it was last summer, the heat surrendered without much of a fight in September.
Earlier this month, some of us were caught with our windows open. I hadn’t been paying attention to the forecasts and one night I awakened at 3 a.m. with icy spiders of air chasing up and down my arms. The following night, air temperatures dropped to around freezing, but at least the windows were now closed against the cold.
Snow fell in northwestern Kansas that same week. And one evening this month, thunderstorms shook the house. That storm provided us with the surround-sound of rain and filled our gutters with the precipitation that Kansas crops had been dying for this summer. The land still wears the awful scars of drought.
Our cats have moved inside for the winter. This year Zorro had the bright idea that my pillow would be a good place for him to take up residence, day and night. Zorro is sweet, but he’s also stubborn, a heavyweight fighter of a cat, all muscles and claws, but luckily he took to a towel that I laid out for him on another part of the bed.
We are now living among the musty drapes of fall. Maple and oak trees in town have been set on fire, their orange and red flames shooting into the sky. Soon those leaves will fall, leaving us with sad and stark branches until April. I find it almost unbearable that for five months of every year, we live in a world without leaves.
As the colors of the seasons change, so do our menus. We may have chili simmering on the stove, cornbread in the oven. Ham and beans warm us from the inside out. We stand by the stove and enjoy the radiating heat that in August would have been unthinkable.
As the seasons change, there are things to do: rake leaves, wash the windows on the house, check the antifreeze in the car and buy Halloween candy. Halloween, after all, officially launches the candy season. Trick-or-treat candy is wrapped in tones of gold and orange. The red and green of Christmas comes next. Valentine’s Day gives us pink, red and white wrappers, and the candy season concludes with a parade of Easter pastels.
Autumn is like a two-month warning for winter. It’s a time to mentally prepare for the season of freezing temperatures, to remember how miserable it feels to wear wet socks, to become accustomed to the darkness and to the white clouds that mute the sky. It’s time to adjust to cold blood, to the chilly air when you step outside of the warm radius of your space heater, to settle into seeing a world empty of the color green.
Before we know it, clouds will collapse into snow, creating a new geography, a new landscape of white, one that covers and hides our messy lives.
We never know in advance how fierce the winter will be, or how mild. Last year winter skipped over us, but sometimes the cold air hangs on like a low-grade infection, dropping snow on tulips in April.
Each day of fall moves us closer to meeting the pasty face of winter. But for now color is still hanging in the air – trees are green and golden, orange and crimson, and hopefully warm autumn temperatures will also hang around for awhile.
Copyright 2012 ~ Cheryl Unruh