Fall has arrived, have you noticed? I know you’ve noticed the cooler weather, but have you noticed all the other wonderful parts of autumn that make this season so wonderful?
I’ve been walking as much as possible lately, not so much to save on gas and the wear and tear on my car, but to just be outside and connect with my surroundings as much as I can. I think it’s important for all sorts of reasons, so I make it a point to just get outside, regardless of what I’m doing when I get there.
Out in the elements, you notice a whole lot of things you don’t when you’re driving around in a car. For instance, the quality of the air in the morning. This time of year it’s usually cold, crisp and invigorating, scented with the earthy smell of fallen leaves.
You know right away if you’ve dressed wrong, which is easy to do after the warm season, since we’ve all fallen into the habit of just leaving without a jacket.
Some days no jacket is fine in the morning, but then the weather flips during midday and suddenly you find yourself underdressed because you forgot to check the weather forecast. And once you get cold, only a long hot shower is going to warm things back up. Well, unless you’re lucky enough to have a well-timed hot flash, that is.
We should be used to these manic weather patterns, living in Wisconsin, where it’s quite possible to have the heat on in the morning and then need the air conditioning on by the afternoon.
One of the things I love most about these fall days are the sidewalks covered with leaves. The swish of my steps through the thick layer of them on my path makes me reminiscent of my childhood days. It’s the intoxicating crunch they make underfoot that brings out the total kid in me.
Walking along I can barely resist, as my steps start to drag just a bit and then kick at the end, in the hopes of throwing some leaves around. I’m also completely distracted by all the beautiful leaves in a variety of shades, patterns and sizes, and try to resist the urge to bend down and pick them up as I go. Resist, because I know if I start it will be hard to stop, and I do have to get to work.
The way the air moves is part of the magic of the season as well. It’s different now – a bit sharper, a bit chilly, and it nips at you now and then. On warm afternoons it’s quite lovely, the sun warming your face and shoulders and the cool wind reminding you that these warm days will be coming to an end soon.
The wind likes to play games. It will suddenly ambush you out of nowhere with a sudden gust that tosses a whirlwind of leaves around you for a few seconds and then whisks them away down the street. It’s almost as if it were teasing you – its way of asking you to stay outside and play for a while.
The sun is different now, and it makes things look different. It hits us at a new angle, and we notice something’s changed but exactly what is hard to say. That is, until early evening comes and we find ourselves walking, riding or driving towards the west, and that brutal autumn sun is staring us down, daring us to blink first. That might well be the only part of the season I don’t find especially delightful.
I can work a little longer in the yard now, because it’s cooler and I don’t overheat so quickly. I can’t get out there too early though, because the bees are busy doing their very important jobs. I like seeing happy bees, and the more, the merrier. The temperature needs to drop only a few degrees and they get slow and sleepy pretty quickly.
Too sleepy to worry about someone like me bumping around their precious flowers. I like to chat with them when they’re sleepy. Every once in a while, I’ll give one a little back rub. After all, they work pretty hard for us.
The evenings are much shorter now. They’ve been shrinking since June, and are halfway to the shortest they will be in December. Daylight is more precious now, and we scramble to get things done while there’s still light.
It’s Mother’s Nature’s way of making sure we appreciate those long summer evenings. A new feature on my evening walks is the smell of numerous campfires wafting through the neighborhood.
There’s nothing that relaxes me quite like a campfire. It brings back so many happy memories of a much more simple time, camping with my family as a kid and all the fantastic adventures that came along with that experience.
The moon appears early these days, and it’s beautiful and charming against the colors of the twilight sky from the setting sun. I’ve always been a bit fascinated by the moon. Perhaps it’s because I was born under that sign, or perhaps it’s because it’s just a fascinating part of the night sky.
This mysterious orb is a constant reminder of how small we are, as we glide around the universe on a slightly bigger, and just as mysterious, blue orb. I’ve always enjoyed paying attention to the phases of the moon and how clearly we can see its surface on a cloudless night. It’s kind of like having a friend that’s always there. A really good, old friend.
There are only a few more precious weeks of sleeping with the windows open. I have them open as much as I can, always trying to connect with the outside whenever I can. Even when it’s something as simple as being seated in a restaurant. When asked, my answer is perpetually, “by a window.”
Outside is something I just never want to be very far away from. But soon, very soon, the nights will be too chilly for that, and I will have to settle for just having the moonlight shining in through my bedroom window, casting a gentle white light on a softly snoring dog in the middle of a sweet dream at the foot of my bed.
Photo courtesy of the author.
Originally published in the Portage County Gazette, October 3, 2014.