Weekend essay: The shadows of fall

Weekend essay: The shadows of fall

Twilight has taken to falling so quickly in these freshly born September days that one might first think a big storm is brewing.

Sniff the air and, yes, you do smell rain, the weak remnants of Hurricane Harvey. But cock your ear to some variant of West and there’s no distant rumble of thunder. And scan the horizon through a cut in the foothills of the Appalachians and there’s not even a faraway hint of lightning.

Then you catch yourself. Ah, yes, of course. It is not a late-summer storm approaching at all. That tell-tale early dusk is autumn.

As wonderful as the coming fall will be — the bold colors (if we’re lucky), those winds with a touch of crispness, sounds that somehow are more sharp — there is an associated sadness.

It comes, in part, with the withering petunias and pansies. They were so robust and colorful for so long, the latter being among the first flowers of spring. But, now, no level of care appears to be able to revive them.

The stock of the mums, however, is on the rise. Their buds are itching to burst forth. Their flowers, and the rush of bees to partake, will lessen the blow.

It’s also time to start thinking about where to move those new and too-large “outdoor” house plants bought in the zeal of a hoped-for uncharacteristically warm April. One seldom thinks of interior square footage when the limitless space of the great outdoors beckons.

That’s especially true after the always too-long season whose name we dare not speak (but are resigned to admit will come all too soon again).

Alas, darkness soon will begin to envelope us long before true evening. The shadows of the coming fall will truncate the day earlier and earlier. Even with all of autumn’s activities, life somehow will find itself more and more muted.

The only “thunder” rumbles to be heard will be the snores of “W1” and “W2,” the Tortie cat sisters, Wyeth and Winslow, resonating against the old oak floors as they snooze before the low flames of a stone fireplace burning dried turf from the southwest of Ireland.

They will rest at their sanguine master’s feet as he contemplates change in an old rocker whose motion speaks to optimism sans regrets. It’s the perfect opportunity to nurture a cup of black English tea, well-appointed with cream and sugar.

And then, autumn, too, will wane. Too soon, poet W.C. Bryant’s “melancholy days … the saddest of the year” – winter — will be upon us. “Of wailing winds and naked woods, and meadows brown and sear.”

And we will nest, and stoke the fire whose flames will mesmerize us with life’s possibilities.

And we will read, and carefully bank the fire before bed to ease the chores of each new dawn.

And we will plan. For each day spring will be that much closer to “just around the corner.” We must be ready, long before the first daffodils peek through the still snow-encrusted ground, to greet anew the warmth of the resurrecting sun.

Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).