13 October 2007


A poet once said, "April is the cruelest month." I understand the sentiment, but I disagree with it. For me, it is October, always has been.

Autumn is the only time of year that I don't mind living in Oh-hia-ia. The extreme heat and humidity of the summer is gone, leaving behind a cooler and eminently more pleasant general climate. The bitter, bone-chilling winds of January are in the not-too-distant future, but not close enough to worry about. Snow rarely makes its first appearance until November or December.

The fall colors, more than rival to the famous colors in New England, are beautiful. We have the full spectrum of fall color, and it is spectacular to behold. The palest yellows, the same color as the light of a new dawn. Greens that were lush fade to mere memories of themselves. Gold, just like the fields of wheat that are being harvested. Reds, stunning in their brilliance. The 'red maples' have leaves of a nearly maroon tint, and they too fade to a lighter shade of themselves. Even the more common and less showy oranges and browns add to the display.

It happens gradually, leaves from beech or ornamental trees littering the ground in early September, before the rest begin to change. And then one morning we all wake to hints of red and orange in the trees. I live near a large metropolitan park, and driving along its twisting byways is a delight. As teenagers, we played 'road rally' on the park's drives, a stupid and dangerous (and fun) thing to do, because the hairpin turns don't allow you to see oncoming traffic. I drive slower there these days.

And yet, the weather is changing, and we have days like we've had over the last week, overcast, cloudy, rainy, and COLD. That is what makes this a cruel month; we go from flip-flops one day to needing jackets the next. Generally, I tell friends and family to complain to me about the cold after they've survived a winter in Scandinavia, because it isn't cold here. I normally don't bother with a coat until the temperature hovers in the 20-degree F (-7 C) range. But in the last week I've found myself reaching for a light jacket almost every day. Advancing age? Perish the thought.

My asthma always acts up in October, frustrating me, because most of the rest of the year it leaves me alone. The tickle in the back of my throat that signals an oncoming attack is nearly ever-present as soon as the leaves begin to fall. Each day with lower temperatures begins with an attack, deep, wracking coughs that make my eyes water, my nose run, and leave me gasping for air. Each evening, after dinner, as DH and I settle into watching television (him, usually) or reading (me), I have another small attack. It is these smaller evening attacks that end up making me more breathless, occasionally reaching for the rescue inhaler to stop them, something I'm too stubborn to do the rest of the year. But when I feel like I can't get enough air sitting in a recliner, it is time to accept that I might need the assistance that only the inhaler can provide.

As the month winds down, we go from skies of perfect autumnal blue to grey, where they stay for the rest of the year. We see brief peeks of sunshine between the stormy skies. I find myself looking at the ground rather than face that overcast sky. The days grow shorter and shorter, heading to the winter equinox. Losing the light is especially cruel. While I detest the heat and humidity of the summer, at least the days are long.

It is beautiful, though. This is a chill beauty, sometimes damp, but constantly changing. I miss the leaves when they're gone. The only upside to the falling leaves, as I see it, is that living in a condo, we are spared having to clean up the downed leaves. Instead we can simply enjoy their beauty (and bitch about the way the landscaper cleans them up). As a child, Saturdays in October were spent helping my father to round up thousands of pounds of leaves (no joke or exaggeration) so that the grass could be cut until the snow fell.

I turned the furnace on today, the biggest sign of the weather change of all. And I'm still freezing. Hand me that blanket, will ya?

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