This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. As of this last week’s shift from summer to what appeared to be full-on Autumn, we have turned the corner into a new season – not altogether Autumn, exactly, but that lovely in-between span when, on a cosmic level, we can feel everything begin to shift gears, to try this way and that way, heading back to summer temps for a bit, then not so much. It’s almost as if the shifter of gears in this planetary mechanism says, “Wait. Hold on. Summer isn’t done yet. We have to go back.” Then they notice the leaves on the dogwoods and the black gum trees, already tinged with the crimson they’ll soon become, and they sigh and realize its time to turn the tiller over to next phase, and the swing shift crew that’s in charge of carefully, incrementally turning the prevailing winds toward the northwest and away from the south.
“But Wait, they say, and we echo them. “Not yet. Please. Not yet. There are broccolis needing just a little more time to finish making heads, and okra pods still unfinished. And all those late apples still decorating the trees like Christmas balls. still needing picking and canning and pressed into cider. And the hard pears. Please, Just a little more time, a little more sun. Just a little.”
Meanwhile, we frail humans who would control the weather if we could, must learn instead to ourselves turn the corner, to find cool closets and dark shelves where we might store and save the precious last leavings of the garden. For we’ve had our notice, our first reminder that that time is on its way, and we must be prepared.
I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the more I do so love the always reliable yet always unexpected shift to that between time, when the first cool days arrive, and the breath speeds up and the light seems clearer. The whole concept of turning a corner in this way reminds me of how my elderly puppy, Bella, deals with corners. Even though she’s of an age where she really should slow down (and I’m sure she would say the same of me), she comes roaring in from her first morning’s encounter with the suddenly crisp and cool outdoors, feet propelling her in a fury, wild-eyed and going way too fast, careening off the fireplace corner, flying into the kitchen in a sliding, spinning arc worthy of Daytona and down the straightaway to skid to a perfect stop before her breakfast bowl. That’s how last week arrived. Some of us got rain. Some didn’t. But we all got the wind, the clouds, the cool down, the not-so-distant early warning that fall is more than a rumor, and winter can’t be far behind. It didn’t last long and was never serious enough to make us throw the switch that would change our climate control form AC to Heat. But for those of us out in the country, it was enough to make us rouse ourselves to go out and check the level of the propane tank, evaluate the wood pile and sniff the air to see if any of our neighbors had fired up the wood stove overnight. If not for the abundance of ragweed pollen, we’d have thrown open all the windows to let the stale summer air out of the house. For those of us sensitive to ragweed, that task would better be postponed until after the first frost has laid it low. Many of us, despite the results of copious research, persist in believing they are in fact, allergic to goldenrod. With profuse apologies for tampering with long established mythology, I must inform you that nearly no one is allergic to goldenrod. It just bears the unfortunate distinction of being bright yellow and often growing right alongside the substantial but less noticeable tiny green flowers of ragweed. It’s guilt by association. It’s too bad, because a tea made from goldenrod flowers has many therapeutic properties, including easing irritated eyes, nose and respiratory tract from fall allergies. Really. No kidding. If you don’t believe me, ask Uncle Google.
And while we’re at it, I invite you to pay closer attention to your own physical being and how, even here at the peak, and some would say past the peak of civilization, our bodies will still behave as the tender, furless mammals we are, and will eat more, sleep more and begin to slow down in the natural process of preparing for the long dark. We’ll stock up on groceries, pay more attention to roots and tubers than to salads, salsas and summer fruits and vegetables. We’ll note the empty spaces in the pantry and begin to fill them. We’ll poke around until we find light jackets and bring them out, just in case. We won’t give up sandals just yet. But we’ll know where our boots are, just in case. We may not plummet around corners in the grand exuberance that cooler temps bring. But we’ll start to shun fruit smoothies in favor of muffins and begin considering the ingredients for making chili. Yes, even as the temps return to the 80s, we are on the brink of Autumn and all its bounties as well as its changes. This is no time to worry about cold feet. It’s time to plunge right in. This is Marideth Sisco, inviting you to join me in celebrating the signs of that season just now peeking around the corner of these Ozark Hills.