Autumn Falls

This year the Autumnal Equinox falls on Tuesday, September 23 (2014) UTC.  That’s Monday, September 22 at 9:29 PM CT.

For over a week, I’ve marveled at the growing shadows as the sun slips lower in the sky with Earth’s Autumn attitude growing more each day.

Crisp, cool mornings have graced us and reminded us that Summer has gathered her floral skirts and departed.

Fall is upon us and will soon cover us with brilliant throws and carpeted lawns, freeing us from Summer’s chores.

I sense my mind changing gears – from Summer’s greens to Autumn’s golden hues – from hot and humid to cool and breezy – from picking, pickling and processing the garden to plucking it up and turning it under….

Outward focused for many months,  I now find myself looking within.  Within my house to see what needs to be done to prepare for cold Winter days.  Within myself to unclutter my life and my surroundings.  Within my life to cull that which hinders and to prune that which is no longer productive.

Busy, over packed Summer months with their long sun-filled days offered opportunity to stretch myself to near breaking.  Now, Autumn begins the task of closing out and shutting down, calming and settling, bringing an end to the maddening pace Summer’s long days encouraged.

I greet Autumn open faced and open handed.  With a backward glance at what was Summer’s blush, I step fully into what falls to me as Autumn showers me with a renewed sense of being and the promise of becoming more fully who I am.

Days are growing shorter.  The long nights are coming.  I’ve had long Summer months to prepare.  Did I do enough?  Did I learn enough?  Have I prepared enough?

One thing I know – I did not take enough time to relax and enjoy…enjoy the flowers outside my kitchen door, the hummingbirds at the 4 o’clocks, the Goldfinches on the Zinnias, the wonders in the garden, the miracle of growth, the grasshoppers and the stinkbugs and all their intricate parts working in harmony, the cries of the cicada or the call of the WhipporWill, the cool breeze on my sweaty face, the green of the grass or the earthworm drummed up by my digging.

Take time to smell the roses – I did that once or twice.  The memory of their scent lingers still…I wish I’d slowed my pace and quietened my activities and spent more time seeing and smelling and enjoying and less time doing, doing, doing.

Autumn is fleeting.  Too soon Winter’s blast will drive me indoors, halt the roses’ bloom and freeze colors to dull brownish black.

What can I do today that will open wide the door Autumn offers me – the door to opportunity, to productivity, to joy-filled living, to insight, to clarity, to the appreciation of beauty in the world around me?

Autumn falls upon us without preference or prejudice.  It is what it is and glories in all that it offers.  I don’t know about you, but I’m going to slice off a big chunk just for myself and squeeze all the good out of every day for the next three months!

And, I’m going to celebrate the departure of Summer and the arrival of Fall by taking a 15 minute break right now…pouring myself a steaming cup of black coffee…sitting in the sun on my back porch…enjoying what is.  I owe that to myself…to Summer’s pleasures and Autumn’s promise.

Excuse me while I turn off, unplug, and step outside to become a part of the change that’s taking place around me.

Happy Autumnal Equinox. 😉

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A Return to Summer

97 degrees with a heat index of 109, brilliant sunshine, high humidity, a chance for late afternoon showers, and a heat advisory – Summer has returned now that August is in her final blush.

What a delightfully “cool” summer it’s been.  I’d forgotten what Summer’s heat felt like and how much more difficult outdoor chores became when humidity and heat combine with potentially killing force.

I had become accustomed to the cooler than normal temps this Summer has offered and was shocked by the discomfort felt as “normal” returned.  For the first time in what felt like months, I broke into a sweat just walking from my front door to the mailbox and back. It wasn’t from exertion. No, it was from the heat and humidity.  It was like I had opened the door on a hot oven and been overcome by blast of heat.

And, I’ll admit…it felt good.

There’s just something about sweating in the Summer.  Impurities and toxins flow from the pores in your skin and leave your body refreshed and healthier.  Replenishing the fluid lost through sweating enables the body to push even more of the bad stuff out.

I cut grass yesterday afternoon.  I sweated until drops fell from my hair and the tip of my nose.  I worked and I sweated and I breathed out the back and breathed in the good.  And, at the end – oh, it felt good!  I was soaked and the gentle breeze that stirred the trees cooled me.

Had I not been sweat soaked, I wouldn’t have noticed the change in temperature when a cloud hid the sun, would not have felt the slight breeze that touched my damp skin, could not have appreciated God’s grace-filled-touches meant to remind me that I am deeply loved by my creator and I am not the only one who longs for relationship. God longs for relationship with me.

Spring’s Confusing Winters

While out and about with Mom last week we noted the Redbuds in full bloom – gorgeous deep pink – and Dogwoods, showing their first bright flash of white.

“This must have been Redbud winter that we just had,” Mom commented.

“Um…you said Redbud winter arrived two weeks ago,” I cautiously reminded her. “Dogwoods were coming into bloom.  Are you certain that wasn’t Dogwood Winter?”

“No, it’s not Dogwood winter yet,” she assured me.  “The next cold snap will be Dogwood Winter.”

And, so it appears Dogwood Winter is NOW upon us. (It was 36 degrees when I greeted the day and tonight the temperature will drop into the mid 20’s.  That’s a little BRRR for mid April.)

I’m sure in another week or two a new cold snap will slip in after a cold front and chill us again.

If Locust trees are coming into bloom, then it will be Locust Winter. And, if not?  Well…I don’t know…just consider it a reminder that Spring can be confusing at times.

Apparently there is a cold snap that occurs as pear trees are coming into bloom.  And, another that occurs when “Tulip trees” are in full bloom (usually a killing freeze).  And, there’s another that occurs when pear trees are in full bloom, just as peach begins to bloom.

And, as Redbud begins to show color, there’s a cold snap and when it’s in full bloom (I suppose that’s when Redbud Winter is declared)…another. And, at some point between Redbud’s first blush of color and its full glory, Dogwood begins to show color and we have another cold snap.

And, then when Dogwood shimmers full and white, there’s another Winter and we (apparently) declare it Dogwood Winter.

It gets a bit confusing…all these cold snaps. I’m not sure how cold it needs to be if we’re to declare it a Winter.

As we leave April behind and slip into May, things will get a little less confusing as temperatures rise and the promise of Summer can be heard clicking her heels as she steps closer with each day’s move on the calendar.

Spring’s Winters…they are dependable…coming about every 10 days it seems.  Call them what you will…they keep us guessing – about what to wear, when to plant….

They make life interesting, keep us on our toes, and remind us that we aren’t in charge or in control.

Oh, better cover up your tender vegetation tonight…forecast is for a hard freeze. 😉

Happy Dogwood Winter!

Autumn’s Joys

Summer’s passing couldn’t be helped.  I fought Autumn’s arrival with everything in me, but still it arrived and Summer slipped away.

It seemed all I could think about were things that would no longer be.

What a sad way to pass the day.

By focusing on what isn’t, I was missing the miracle of what is.

Miracles like:

  • the leaves changing colors
  • barn spiders renewing their webs
  • October blue skies
  • the Harvest Moon
  • pumpkins
  • V formation
  • cool breezes
  • lower humidity
  • goldenrod
  • the emergence of virgin queen wasps
  • broccoli and Brussels sprouts
  • foggy mornings
  • football
  • the sound of leaf rakes
  • the crunch of feet on dry leaves
  • more days between grass cuttings
  • the thunk of hedge apples hitting the ground
  • digging sweet potatoes
  • turning under the garden
  • Woolie Bears
  • red Maple leaves
  • Hummingbird migration South
  • fewer mosquitoes
  • lazy flies
  • crisp air
  • school days
  • back to church activities
  • long nights
  • blankets
  • “free” weather
  • cool nights, warm days
  • Halloween, Thanksgiving and pre-Christmas activities
  • sweat pants and light jackets
  • a falling leaf tickling my cheek on its downward spiral
  • apple picking
  • butternut squash
  • first frost
  • wood smoke
  • burning leaves
  • rest from summer’s chores

Summer was a taskmaster. I worked from sun up until after sunset and still there was more to do.

With Autumn’s arrival, my body senses a slow down and a need to change gears…to change pace.

Summer ended just in time. She was about to wear out her welcome and wear me out as well.

Welcome, Autumn! I look forward to getting to know you.  I’m sure we will become great friends once I become accustomed to your ways and figure out how to change my Summer way of thinking into a more laid back Autumn line.

Three months of Autumn lie before me.  I’m so excited!  There’s so much to see…to experience…to do!

Goodbye, Summer.  It was nice knowing you!  Thanks for all you offered me. You really put me through my paces. But, I’ll be honest, I felt more your servant than your friend.

I’ve a new love now and I’m off to get to know him.  I think we will get along just fine.  Instead of me working for him…I think we will work together.  And, if I’m careful, I might just get him to work for me.  😉

Happy Autumn Y’all!  I hope its every joy is yours to enjoy.

Summer’s End

The high temperature forecast (here) tomorrow is a harbinger of what’s to come.

76 degrees is quite a drop from the 93 steamy degrees experienced two days ago.

Yes, Autumn is just around the corner and Summer is nearing its end.

The cooler temperature will tell the okra, “13 feet is high enough – you can slow down now.” Though it will continue to grow and produce until the first frost nips it, production will begin to slow.  And, for some reason that saddens me.

Autumn has always been my favorite season of the year.  But, this year, I dread to see it come.

And, I don’t know why.

Perhaps because it seems to pass so quickly – no lazy days…a quick change artist that slips in amongst Summer green and exits just before Christmas.

Days pass too quickly and then it’s Winter – the dark, cold days descend on us. Days of indoor activity, dry heat, colds/flu, arthritis pain and stiffness.

But, wait – before I throw myself into an “I dread Winter” mentality – we’ve another week of Summer yet!  And, another glorious Fall lies before us.

September 22 is the First Day of Autumn (Autumnal Equinox) for most of the Northern Hemisphere.

Q: Why do I dread Winter?  Ans: Because it brings me pain, forces me to remain indoors, and creates hardships.

But…why do I dread it? “Dread” is an emotional response to fear.  Do I fear Winter?

No, I think what I fear is change.

Most likely a lot of the pain I feel in Winter is directly related to the use and abuse my body suffers during the long hot days of Summer when I’m out in the heat making things happen.  I push through pain/injury and make the most of the hot days.

But, as Summer ends and Autumn draws near, I feel that odd ache begin within me that is concurrent with Winter’s chill.

Dread settles in and I find myself obsessed with what will be when I should be enjoying what is – the last flash of Summer and the first burst of Autumn.

Summer’s end is the beginning of something new, beautiful, and invigorating. I don’t intend to let dread be a part of my Autumn experience this year.  I’m going to live in the moment, face the future, embrace the changes that Summer’s end brings to me and my world and squeeze all the good out of every minute God gives me.

What about you and that which you dread? Will you toss dread aside and make the choice to live in the moment, face the future, embrace change, and look for the good?

Time to Change Time

I woke this morning at my usual time.  Light through my window was muted.

“Cloudy,” I assumed. “Wonder if it rained.”

A quick peek through the blinds revealed sparkles of dew upon the grass but everything else was dry.

Day was late dawning.

Sunlit hours grow minutes fewer with each day that passes now.  At first I noticed it most in the evening. But, now each morning is a little darker when I rise.

I miss the sun streaming into my bedroom window, wakening me and teasing me to get up and experience the day.

It’s time to change time.

Sun up at 5:30 a.m. sounds good to me.  And, sun down at 8:30 p.m. sounds good as well.  As sunlit hours diminish from 15 plus to barely 10 these next few months, we need to find a way to pack more time into the sunlit hours.

15 hours of living crammed into 10 hours of daylight.  Shouldn’t be impossible.  The government already tells the sun when to get up and when to go down.  Surely something can be done to make the 10 day lit hours of Winter more productive.

Here’s what I propose.  When Daylight Savings Time ends in a couple of months, let’s go on Daylight Investment Time.  We’ve saved all that daylight since, when, March?  Well let’s make it work for us now instead of us working for it.

Hours from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. will be 120 minutes long.  That means instead of sleeping 8 hours, we will sleep only 4. (But the wonderful thing about Daylight Investment Time is that we will feel as refreshed as if we’d had 8 hours of sleep.)

Hours from 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. will be 60 minutes long and will give us 3 hours to get up, get ready for work/school, arrive and settle in…normal schedule.

Hours from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. will be 30 minutes long – instead of having 7 hours of productive daylight hours, there will be 14. (What a boost that would be to the economy – all that money coming into paychecks and all that spending….)

Hours from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. will be 60 minutes long to allow time to slow down, settle down…wind down after all we’ve accomplished/achieved in the past 14 hours – and, of course, to allow for TV viewing.

14 productive daylight hours – not bad for dark winter days.  And, with three hours mentioned previously (that are usually sun lit) – 7 to 9 a.m. and 5 to 6 p.m. – there will be a minimum of 17 hours of daylight with the Investment system during the short days of Winter.  That’s two hours more than the 15 hours offered during the long days of Summer with the Savings system.

A quick tally reveals a total of 27 hours.  How’s that for investing time saved? Not only do you have more daylight hours at your disposal during the short days of Winter, but the days are extended by 3 hours.

And, you still wake up feeling refreshed in the morning!

Daylight Investment Time = longer days, more productivity, greater focus….

Yep.  I say it’s time we stop saving time and start investing it.

Cotton Britches Winter

From childhood I knew of Spring “winters” – knew the names, what to watch for and how to designate which “winter” we were having here in Middle Tennessee. (Different locations experience it at different times – 400 miles South of here cranks things forward a month, maybe more, and squeezes them tighter together, time-wise.)

In my neighborhood, two Spring “winters” preceded the “official” winters – Tulip Magnolia Winter (mid to late February/early March) and Pear Winter (early to mid March).  Our next door neighbor had a beautiful Tulip tree – every year, while it was in full bloom, a hard freeze would turn the beautiful pink blossoms brown. You could count on it.  Across the street, lived a tall pear tree. If it came into bloom, I wore my heavy jacket to school without complaint.

Redbud Winter is the first official Spring “winter” recognized by the locals. It’s a hard cold snap that happens when Redbud trees bloom (late March, early April).

Within a few days, the weather returns to Spring-like temperatures for a couple of weeks and then bottoms out again when Dogwood trees bloom – Dogwood Winter (early to mid April).

Locust Winter follows Dogwood and often brings a late frost (late April to early May).

And, then Blackberry Winter arrives before Locust trees have shed their racemes, bringing the last chance of frost and alerting gardeners that it’s safe to plant okra (early to mid May).

Four official Spring “winters:”

  1. Redbud
  2. Dogwood
  3. Locust
  4. Blackberry

Yesterday, I learned there are five.

A local news weather prognosticator said the 80+ degree temperatures we’ve enjoyed the past few days will give way to cooler temperatures after the cold front moves through. By cooler temperatures he meant highs in the lower 70’s during the day and 50’s at night. He declared it “Cotton Britches Winter.”

I’d heard of Linsey Woolsey Winter. Folks in Eastern Tennessee and Kentucky know that’s when it’s time to pack away your winter clothes and pull out your summer (mid to late May)

Perhaps “Cotton Britches Winter” means we can put on our light weight cotton britches and pack away the wool ones. 😉 Or, perhaps it means we thought Blackberry Winter was the last cool snap and we got caught with our cotton britches down.

In any event, let’s not forget about Whippoorwill Winter (late May, early June). Summer doesn’t officially begin until June 21.