Last Week It Was Summer, Today Feels Like Fall

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After months of destructive, depressing drought that harmed gardens and crops and drove suburban animals to dig in garden pots for roots, Asheville got a gorgeous intermittent rainstorm that lasted a day and a half. Three inches of rainfall, a new record, before it was done.

I woke up at 3AM to the sound of rain. Not a downpour, but gentle yet insistent rain, the kind that sticks around. A gentleman rain who stays for breakfast. There’s something about the sound of a rain that’s not just passing through — it’s different.

It rained all night and into the day. I walked to class with my black umbrella, shaking off water as I chose my seat in the lecture hall. Professor McClain, most of the way through a wonderful talk on Karl Marx, was stopped dead as the hall was plunged into darkness. The campus had lost power, probably from wind. The exit lights flashed on.

Someone threw open to doors to the auditorium, letting long streams of light in. Professor McClain laughed, apologized, and asked us to tell back to him Marx’s four forms of alienation. Man from the process of labor, man from the products of labor, man from human nature, man from man.

We filed out in semidarkness into the rain with a naughty out-of-school feeling to be leaving lecture early.

The next day we saw that the rain had washed us right into fall. We went in a single day from oppressive heat and drought to cool days, cold nights, fall sun and the remarkable blue skies of autumn.

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I remarked to my neighbor that five hours of yard work last week was hell, but five hours of yard work this weekend was a delight. Slanting fall light, blue skies, breezes, moist dark earth to work in. Invigorating cool air, neither humid nor dry, but perfect.

Heaven.

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On Sunday I drove to the local Farmer’s Market and saw the fall produce moving in. Carving pumpkins and exotic pumpkins, some deep orange, some a waxy orange-cream and a few, displayed with the requisite cornstalks, that must weigh a hundred pounds.

The cold is still with us, though it feels like just last week it was still full summer. Last night when I went out walking after dark I wore a cardigan, a hat and a scarf. While I am the first to wear a scarf and the last to retire it, I wasn’t too warm in my first winter clothes of the turning season.

Barely more than a week ago I was putting off mowing the yard until after six to beat the worst of the brutal summer heat.

Two nights ago I saw swifts in a chimney not far from my house. Last night they were gone. Did they join the big colony in the Grove Arcade, where there’s a big old chimney that always draws the most birds? Or did they just move on south?

I went swift-hunting on the college campus last night only to find the swifts there almost gone. Most of the birds I saw and thought were swifts were flying south in a small group. They are heading to Peru, I guess, as they do with the first cold front of the year.

I stood in the parking lot by the dining hall and watched them disappear beyond the trees.

It’s chilly this morning. Two nights ago I took my first step into fall, shutting my bedroom windows, blocking out along with the chilly air the night sounds I love so much. Soon I’ll shut up the whole house, blocking out the good world I let in all summer. Some Saturday afternoon I’ll put down the storm windows. Then I’ll turn on the heat, and be sealed up and warm in my burrow until spring.

Last week I was wearing short sleeves to class and no socks. Today I’ll wear a t-shirt as usual, but cover it with a shrug and a scarf. And I’ll wear socks. And folded on my bed is an extra blanket, the just-in-case blanket I keep by my feet in case the cold wakes me up in the night.

Fall doesn’t officially arrive for a few more days, but it’s already here.

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