Letter from the Editor

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Legends of the fall

"I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. - Nathaniel Hawthorne

Can there be much sweeter a gift that the days we have enjoyed recently, the sunny, blue-skied days folded neatly between the pages in the chapters that are summer and fall, the more to be lingered around and relished because we know they are all too numbered.

These are the kind of perfection changing-of-the-season days that occur more frequently in memory than they ever did in reality. When you get one, live it for all it is worth.

What a torture they must be for children back in school after their summer's parole has been revoked. How can one possibly concentrate on long division when an impossibly watercolored beautiful day beckons just on the other side of the widow pane, calling young hearts to toss a ball or jump a rope in the sunshine? It hardly seems fair.

As for the rest of us, it doesn't take much on such a day to draw us out of our dismal dungeons of employment. "No, no, your work here is much more important, sir, let me walk down to the post office for you, sir!"

The temptation to extend a 15-minute power lunch into a lusty two hour celebratory spectacle of high laziness in a lakeside park is too much to resist; there's not a jury that has experienced such a day that would convict you.

It almost seemed as if we didn't get a summer this year. The dreary, sloppy ill-mannered spring seemed to linger on long beyond its time, like a beer-buzzed inlaw who doesn't get the message that he has outstayed his welcome.

It never got really hot, as in melt in your bikini Iowa it-ain't-the-heat-its'-the-friggin-humidity hot. The economy had waylaid vacationing, and we had to be inside to see the election news and Bret Favre Watch and war and Olympics and what not, and by the time we got over our frettings and settled in to enjoy the summer, it was nearly gone.

These few gorgeous end-of-August days make up for it all.

There is something about this time of year. The sun shines just as brightly, but instead of lazer yellow, it has a bit of a softer focus, just a touch of diffused orange tint to it. Still warm enough to kiss a bare shoulder, but not to pour sweat down into the small of the back. Good to run and bike and fish, but not to mow the lawn, since the exercise is frustration that is the dream lawn is a battle long since lost, and soon to be a moot point anyway. The beauty of fall - you are no longer obliged to take care of all that stuff that's going to die anyway.

It is a rare and perfect day, in my book, that is hot enough to doze on a beach in the early afternoon, and yet put open the windows and fall alseep to a first cool caressing breeze of the night.

I'm a citizen of the summer, a fair weather friend of miss nature's. Fall leaves me a touch sad. I'm already furtively gazing at the trees, dreading the first red leaf that falls, signaling the soon to arrive endless season of slush, frostbitten fingers, and white death to the summer dude's soul and all it holds dear.

Don't get me wrong, you poetic druid fall-fawners:

I love the flannel-clad harvest season in Iowa as much as the next guy, and the impish October with its wickedly grinning pumpkins and children dressed as politicans and other fearfully weasely devils.

I'm not opposed to the air wild with whipped leaves, or terribly distressed when kids come and leap into your pile as soon as you've finished laboriously raking the yard, scattering your work (okay, your wife's work) to the four winds, at which point you concede and begin to refer to the leaves as "mulch."

I'm down with wise and sleepy harvest moons, the annual visit to the orchard, hot chocolate, old hunting dogs, long sleeves and the Clay County Fair (properly pronounced fa'ar.)

I appreciate The sharpness in the air, the sound of football pads shreiking in orchestrated collision, the ripeness of autumn colors, re-introducing yourself to the starkly impressive bone structure of the landscapes after the corn and beans take their leave.

I love a musty old quilt to sleep under, a good sweater that is just the right amount baggy, election day, pelicans, letting the pets on the bed in order to steal their warmth, the pattern of the first frost etched on your window, weekend afternoons spent reading instead of running willy-nilly, X Number of Shopping Days Til Christmas Dad, equinox, solstice, school concerts and cider. No more necessity for sit-ups, golden Indian summers, days so quiet you can hear the leaves fall, apple dumplings and pumpkin pies, the smell of smoke in the air.

But I'll miss the summer, short though it may have been. I can feel the days growing shorter. My daughter and I have already taken our last trip to favorite haunts in the lakes, my son and I will soon have played our last game of catch with that baseball we have just about worn to the strings. Another year is more gone than it is left, another summer beginning to fade at an age when you it suddenly dawns on you that you get only so many.

How will things find you, way away, when spring comes again? Will you remember to love it? Will your child be suddenly too old to be seen playing catch? Will someone you love be gone away before then? And hey, will it feel the same way?

There is no stopping the change, as much as we would like to quickly paint a perfect day like today in sweeping strokes onto a colored chalk canvas, capture it like the work of art it is, and then crawl inside it to stay until spring.

So long summer, beautiful friend, and thank you for this last lingering kiss. As in all good things, your last was your sweetest.

It's time.