It may be a bleak, chilly fall day, but Autumn still and always is my favorite season of the year. Something about the falling leaves and the crispness of the air reminds me that the months of the year are coming full circle. The gold of the sunflowers is replaced by cornstalks and almost every porch has a pumpkin decorating the steps, whether carved or not. There’s sweet apple cider and the warm smell of smoke from the neighbor’s fireplace to put me in the mood for a good book and sharing my lap with a warm cat. Sometimes, I think that fall is so beautiful because it is preparing us for what lies ahead…cold, wet, snowy days when we will be cooped up inside for months.
Winter is a dying time. Dying and trying. Some years, late in February, I don’t think I can stand any more unending cold mixed with the bone chilling wind. It’s much better here in Kansas than it was in New Jersey. In New Jersey, the snow and cold might start as soon as the middle of November and if it was a good winter, the snow could be gone by mid-March. If it was not a good winter, but one with what would be record breaking eighteen-inch snows for Kansas, the snow and ice might be around until the middle of May. I remember one particularly harsh winter when from April on, all I kept saying was that I just wanted to see a bit of brown ground instead of the interminable white which was the color of that year.
Kansas winters are a much more pleasant shade; the golden tan of dried grass mixed with the soft gray outcroppings of flint and the maroon leaves remaining on the oak trees. Perhaps that is why the autumns in Kansas are so pleasant. There is no headlong rush towards winter, just a peaceful, beautiful meandering. Peaceful in the knowledge that whatever lies ahead cannot be too bad and it will only be a matter of a few days between the first snowflake and the first crocuses appearing.
Of course, anyone who has spent a few winters in Kansas knows that our winters may be short, but they are downright harsh and potentially dangerous. The temperature can hover around zero for days and has been known to be so low that it cracks convertible tops. In place of heavy snow, we have even heavier ice that can take the electricity out for days. Once, during a particularly heavy ice storm, which sounded like a military attack, my mother called to tell me that one of my uncles had died. All I heard was, “Nancy, your uncle Roosevelt….” The phone went dead and the electricity went out simultaneously. I was left to wonder until I got to work, where there was both electricity and a working telephone (this was in the days before cell phones), what the rest of her message was.
Now, none of that matters; the trials of winter are far from our minds as we enjoy the fading days of autumn. There’s the garden to pull up, the lawn chairs to bring in, mulch to be put around some of the plants and leaves to rake. That’s another difference between Kansas and New Jersey. Here, with the exception of the leaves from the oak trees that will be around until spring. cleaning up all the leaves can be accomplished in one day. It’s a pleasant task, as opposed what we experienced in New Jersey where we bagged over one hundred bags of leaves the first year we lived in our house. Actually, we bagged that many leaves every year we lived there; there was a never-ending supply. Raking leaves kept us physically fit but exhausted.
There are positives to an abundance of trees as in New England. Who doesn’t love driving down a winding road with falling leaves spinning around you? At least there are enough trees here in Emporia that one can experience the crunch of walking through fallen leaves while walking the dogs and there are always a few leaves to attach to our sheltie’s fur to be brought into the house. That’s enough leaves for me. Our elongated, if somewhat bereft autumn provides enough pleasure for me to survive another Kansas winter.
The last few mornings have been foggy and as we walk past leaves littered with dew and the remnants of Halloween candy wrappers, drops of condensation fall from the trees and add a chill to our walk, reminding me that winter will soon be approaching. But we still have Thanksgiving to look forward to and December 21st is over a month away. We will enjoy our Kansas autumn until the last leaf falls.