Fall, ready or not


(Originally published in The Sewanee Mountain Messenger. Reprinted by permission.)

To be brutally honest, I wasn’t sure about the idea of the impending end of summer this year.

It just felt like this particular warm season had been unusually fun. There was road- and mountain-biking with my friends, returning to trail running after years away, and paddling on a lake in a sit-on-top kayak while Susan learned to sail.

There was also sitting outside at cafes, drinking cold beverages until late at night, and watching the stars as the peepers sang. I liked walking the dogs on the trails, working on my laptop while on my porch, reading in the hammock.

It’s also about the simplicity of existence in the summer. I enjoyed the freedom of shorts and flip-flops, of going out the door with a minimum of preparation. It’s so gratifying to leave the lights and the heating/air unit off (no TVA coal burned). 

Plus — returning to the honesty part — it seemed that last winter I felt the cold more than in previous years. Having always been someone who reveled in winter, I was surprised by resistance to the idea of getting out. Something about getting older, I think. They say one becomes less resilient to cold as the time passes, hence the long lines of Snowbirds wending their way from Ohio and Minnesota to retirement homes in Florida.

So, to sum up: the onset of cool weather didn’t excite me all that much.

But here’s what I’ve found: the morning sky, with crescent moon and stars, is so much crisper somehow. Sounds seem more distinct in the cool air, perhaps because there’s little background noise from grasshoppers and birds.

There’s satisfaction in pulling out the layers of cool-weather clothing and feeling the enveloping comfort of wool, synthetic fleece, and down.

You can go for a walk without getting sweat in your eyes, or needing a shower. There are no fleas or ticks or gnats. With the leaves gone, you’re granted views between the trees, privileged with vistas and surprise glimpses that aren’t available in spring and summer.

It’s also scientifically proven that the physiological act of keeping warm burns calories. So the baseline caloric requirements of the body are higher in winter. So…you can eat more.

Related point: chili, soup, and stew all taste better in cooler temps. Especially when you are married to a certified Soup Wizard. Hot coffee makes more sense when it’s not hot outside. So does hot chocolate.

And those same cafes whose outdoor tables I enjoyed now offer warm, inviting refuge, their lights in the ever-earlier dark offering somewhere to hole up inside with friends, a place to feel comfort in closeness.

So really, in the end, my foreboding about autumn was like most apprehension: wasted anxiety for a future that I saw with insufficient wisdom. Once again, when the future becomes the present, it turns out to be just fine. I’m ready to layer up, burrow down, and appreciate this beautiful, joyful, serene, profound time of year.