• Last modified 2101 days ago (Sept. 20, 2018)



© Another Day in the Country

It’s September and yet when I look around outside, everything is soldiering on as if we were in the middle of summer.

The tomatoes have had a reprieve from 100-degree weather and after the long week of rain that we had in late August, they’ve staged a comeback.

“Maybe there’s a chance for us, after all,” they seem to be saying.

This is the time of year when Tooltime Tim used to say, “You know that now you can stop watering. It’s fall and things are supposed to die.”

But I never listened to him. Even though it is fall, I keep watering the lawn and encouraging the flowers to keep blooming.

Sitting on the porch today, I saw the first yellow leaves fall from the Ash trees across the street. They still look green and lush; but a breeze flew by and in its wake, yellow leaves drifted down — signaling something —saying, “The seasons are changing. It’s fall.”

Those falling yellow leaves are like gray hairs that folk find unexpectedly in their dark tresses, signaling something — the seasons of life are changing. In that way, I choose to ignore the seasonal signals, covering up the gray with Lady Clairol highlights or “shoe polish” as I jokingly call hair coloring. When I first saw that signal, I was in my late thirties — way too early to concede that I was in the fall season of my life.

But here I am, several decades later, deeply in the fall season of life — a time of year, a season that must not be ignored. Summer does not go on indefinitely — even in California where the climate is mild — there’s still a cycle of growth and decline, as nature decrees.

Ironically, it was this cycle of seasons that were part of the charm of coming back to Kansas.

“I want to experience the seasons,” my sister proclaimed. “In an office environment you just don’t know what is going on in the real world.”

And so we came to Kansas where it’s hot as hell in the summer and your pipes can freeze in winter to experience the contrast.

It’s this season of shift in our environment, fall, that is my favorite time of year. My Aunt Gertie used to say, “I can really get something done in the fall.” Maybe, it was because it was September, the month when school traditionally used to begin again, that gave her renewed energy because she was a teacher. There is something about starting out a new school year.

For us, the children of a certain era, the new school year signaled a new set of clothes, new shoes, a new box of crayons and perhaps a new lunch box. It was the excitement of starting out fresh with brand new items and perhaps a brand new outlook on what you would learn in this stage of your life.

I’m not sure that the children going back to school this fall were excited in that same way. When my daughter sent a picture of Dagfinnr’s first day of school, he was wearing new clothes; but he was holding last year’s backpack and he said he was excited, “in a way, to see friends and who my teacher’s going to be.”

I think he was glad to be back in a routine, after experiencing a summer of wondering what might happen differently each day.

A long-time friend asked me an unexpected question during the summer, “What do you need in this fall season of your life so that you’re comfortable?”

Just the question stopped me in my tracks. I thought about it. No one had ever asked me that question before in any season of my life. I had thought about “What should I do?” and “What do I have?” and “How could I make the best of it?” and even “What do I want?” But never had I asked myself, “What do I need?” and for sure no one close to me had asked that question.

The question from my friend was asked in an email — not in person — so it didn’t demand an immediate answer. In fact, I emailed back, “I have to think about this, if I’m to answer truthfully.”

So, “think” I did and my sister and I discussed this and talked about it in conversations with our family and other friends. That question, “What do you need?” provoked all kinds of table talk with quite a variety of people and it continues to this very day — even though I finally gave an answer.

“What do you need?” helps one clarify what you have already, before you can answer the question. And in the process of assessing need, this flood of gratitude washed over me while I counted carefully all the riches I already have just spending another day, especially a fall day, in the country.

Last modified Sept. 20, 2018