by G.E. Shuman
I’m writing from my usual spot on our glider-swing, on the breezy front porch of our old Vermont home, on a chilly, late-fall Sunday evening. Our house is in the city, but the city is small. Our street ambles along the top rim of one side of a crater-like bowl or ravine; above the muted bustle of the business that is Barre, down in the hollow, below. Without even looking up, I know that people are passing by, as they kick the dry sidewalk leaves in front of our home. I could not make out faces in the dimness of this unlit end of the street, even if I needed to, and I do not.
It is overpoweringly peaceful here, in the dark, on the porch swing, in the constant, cooling, evening fall breeze. The air is fresh, with the slight, musky scent of withered lawn leaves, and it somehow delivers the dampness of a soon-coming overnight shower. No stars shine tonight, but, across town, on the opposing slope of the ‘bowl,’ street lights form vague reference points as to where the hilltops end and the sky begins.
How strange it seems, that the air is cool, almost brisk, but still quite unseasonably warm tonight. I do appreciate this milder than usual fall, and the tardiness of any coming frost. My furnace has run little so far, and that makes me very happy. Our largest, lawn-front maple still holds a few of its leaves, as if reluctant to let them drop. Amazingly, on this late autumn weekend I enjoyed a beautiful Sunday sunset clothed only in tee shirt, shorts, sandals, and chest-clenched coffee mug.
Every late summer and fall conversation that I can remember, during every late summer and fall season that I can remember, has brought the same comments and predictions from neighboring folks and friends, about the direness of the coming winter. I have yet to hear from anyone that we, this time around, are going to experience a milder than usual one. The comments, the stories, are always that “signs” are pointing to a rough winter “this year.” Either the almanac, or the moss, or the wooly-bear caterpillar has figured it all out, and we are doomed to receive lots of cold, and lots of snow. Invariably, these proclamations are so proclaimed with the utmost of sincerity, and supposed foreknowledge of the truth.
Lately, I have actually come to believe such comments, to accept such predictions, for what I believe is a very good reason. That reason is that we really will have a cold winter, with snow, and ice, and freezing rain here in the North, this year. This is because, well, as obvious as this seems… we always do. No mater how ‘mild’ the winter turns out to be, my furnace will get a good workout, as will yours, because they always do. I, and you, will spend lots of quality time this winter with our snow plows, snow shovels, and/or snow blowers… because we always do.
I think that it may only be that we forget, in the heat of summer, and the mildness of a comfortable fall such as this, that winter always comes. Yes, it always comes. But, I am now considering that the predictions about the hard and cold coming winter may be prompted by something more than forgetfulness. The comments about the approaching weather may be because, deep down, we, somehow, want the cold to come. Some of us, myself included, do not enjoy the cold, but we do enjoy the changing of the seasons. One person actually, recently, told me that she feels that we, in the north, have “weather attention deficit disorder.” (Her words.) She stated that she feels that we are always impatient for a change of the seasons, no matter which change we are facing. After all, cold means cozy fires; cold means close times with loved ones, the unexpected holidays of school closings, and being ‘trapped’ at home in a blizzard, with nothing to do but drink hot chocolate or coffee and stare out at the somehow-blessed falling excuse for laziness today. There is a bit of abandon and romanticism in the very idea of being out of control of the weather, and of being confined to sit by the fire and wait for the terrible storm to pass.
This time of year, even our language changes a bit, as we ready for the coming season. People talk of ‘buttoning-up’ for winter, in a batten-down-the-hatches sort of way. We go about our yearly ‘winterizing’ duties, and some ‘stock-up’ on emergency essentials. We are anxious, strangely, to be seasonally ‘tucked in’; to be made safe, warm, and ready for winter’s onslaught. I have never loved winter, but still have not only cleaned the furnace of our old home this fall, but have amassed, under the carport, a pile of split wood and sticks to fuel the fireplace on exceptionally cold evenings. In truth, the fireplace is not necessary. It is but a comforting, aromatic addition to the inevitable seasonal situation which will soon be upon us. Even though I do hate the cold, I love that fireplace, which, strangely, is useful only IN the cold.
It’s even darker now, and I’m thinking seriously of abandoning this chilly porch swing for a warmer spot on the couch just the other side of the window pane behind me. Hopefully, I’ll be back out here on future evenings, until the coolness and the calendar convince me to build a fire and button up.
“George’s World,” a new 740 page collection of George’s columns from The World, is available at xlibris.com, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and your favorite bookstore. “The Smoke And Mirrors Effect,” George’s first novel, can be seen at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. Happy Reading!