Is it the End, or the Beginning?
I’m sitting here pounding away at the keyboard in my home office several days before you actually read this message and, darn it, the weather is just wonderful. Our windows are open because the outside temperature is in the mid-50’s, the humidity is low, the sky is clear and overall, the outdoors looks wonderful.
I hate it.
It’s not the current weather conditions; in fact, after a few more paragraphs, I plan on taking my mug outside to enjoy our wonderful flower-ringed patio and the first “coffee break” of the morning (it’s such a rough life working from home). Looking outside I can see golden drops of dew periodically sliding off the blooming miniature sunflowers in our flower garden while the assembled bird symphony provides a wonderful and relaxing soundtrack.
But I just hate it.
The problem isn’t the fact that I’m wearing a sweatshirt, long pants and even house slippers. After the heat of summer, the extra clothing feels comfortable and reassuring, like an extra blanket on a cool night. That would have been welcome last night at 3 a.m. when I woke up shivering.
But that’s not what is upsetting me. The problem is the future.
The weather forecast is actually supposed to return to more summer-like conditions later in the week. With high humidity and a chance of thunderstorms just a few days away, the beautiful stretch of weather is simply a temporary, albeit wonderful, respite from the heat, muggy nights and bugs.
Yet I hate it.
I’m using the ‘H’ word not because of this particular morning but because of the ugly truth the whole thing brings to mind: the easy living of summer is drawing to a close. I hate to be a glass-half-full guy but it’s hard to enjoy these delicious cooler temperatures without foreseeing what will ultimately, inevitably happen in approximately 30 days.
Upon reaching the tail end of September in a few short weeks, summer will officially be closed for business. While there will certainly be warm, even hot, days, during the remainder of the year there will also be gray, cold and rain in the mix. Even during sunny days, there will likely be enough chill that shorts, flip-flops and t-shirts will only be seen on young men who refuse to acknowledge that we live in Indiana rather than Maui.
The signs can’t be ignored.
School has already started, public pools are closed and the football season has begun. More relevant to what we do, the squirrel hunting season is open and in less than a week early teal and Canada goose will become legal quarry.
Heavy salmon will soon be running in Lake Michigan streams while lakes cool and the gamefish get more aggressive as they start to fatten up for the coming lean months. Chasing smallmouth bass will require pulling the waders out of the closet to comfortably stalk the low, clear and cold waters of a local stream. Wild foods such as nuts, persimmons and paw-paws will ripen as the nights grow chilly and the leaves change color.
The countryside will soon be robed in orange, red and yellow under blue, cloudless skies and some mornings will be rimed with frost. Shallow waters will be covered in a thin, tinkling skin of ice that shatters when a flight of mallards lands to feed just after first light. Once the birds create open water, steam will rise to be highlighted by the morning sun that seems to hang around the horizon much longer than in summer.
Meanwhile, camping and hiking become exceptional as moderate temperatures and humidity, few or no insects and overall scenic beauty beckon even the most urbane city dweller to explore the Hoosier countryside. State parks become crowded destinations as the masses try to temporarily experience what most of us understand on a far more intimate level.
Away from “outdoor” pursuits there is apple picking, hayrides, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, football and more football. Inside there is canning, dehydrating and freezing chores to handle as we put away the bounty of the season. That last venison roast of the season is pulled out of the freezer for a special dinner in the hope of imminent resupply.
Those things also foreshadow the start of hunting seasons in earnest as the Hunter’s Moon draws closer. Everything from dove to deer becomes fair game and most, but not all, outdoors enthusiasts put away rod to pick up the gun. We find ourselves stalking fencerows, sitting quietly in tree stands or waiting patiently in duck blinds. Ultimately we revel in the fellowship or solitude, the beauty, the special sights and sounds, the sublime experiences and even the hardships.
Yes, it’s pretty obvious that fall in Indiana is one of the most wonderful times of the year.
Perhaps I was a bit hasty in my earlier statements.