A cold front blew through town last week, bringing rain and much lower temperatures. After brutal heat from July to October, it finally seems like autumn.
Fall has been tantalizingly slow to arrive. Two weeks ago I watched the weather radar as a massive line of rain swept through the nation from the Great Lakes south all the way to Central Texas.
This far south we had nothing but the wispy end of the front, with scattered thunderstorms. I watched as two small showers passed north and south of my home, leaving us brown and crispy.
Then the seasons finally changed. I went into my closet and unpacked a box of woolen clothes for the first time in at least three years. I found a wool shirt I’d thought lost. I discovered a blue cardigan I’ve worn so infrequently that I had forgotten I owned it.
I pulled out the winter caps and put the summer ones away. I folded the Hawaiian and other summer print shirts my wife has been buying me. They went into the box and up on the shelf.
I’ve come to enjoy the cold, considering that we get so little of it nowadays. There was a sense of hope in all of this.
When I was young, I loved the signs of spring. Now that I’m not young, I love autumn. Call that a metaphor for my life span if you want, but I see the seasons as nostalgic and precious.
November has eclipsed March as my favorite month.
For two decades I was a long-distance runner. In this part of the world, that’s a seasonal recreation. I loved getting out on a Saturday morning and doing a dozen miles on an overcast day in 40-degree weather. I cherish those memories.
I’ve considered moving to a cooler climate, but my wife will have none of that. She grew up in the Chicago suburbs and went to college in Massachusetts. She knows cold better than I do.
About the time we married, I asked if she might be interested in moving to Bend, Oregon, a lovely little town in the high desert just east of the Cascades.
I said, “I guess those winters would be too cold for you.” She replied, “The summers are too cold for me!”
So much for those July days where it’s 50 degrees at dawn. The highs may top 90, but only for a few hours.
We turned on the central heat for the first time in many months. The house smells different. I don’t know if we just get used to the new aroma, but it’s different, for sure.
My wife reported that one of her small students noticed the new smell in her classroom as well. “It smells like fire,” he exclaimed. She thought his expression was apt.
The change of seasons keeps coming later and later. That trend will continue. If you don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, neither do you have to be a scientist to read a thermometer.
Since 1979, the number of days in Austin over 105 degrees Fahrenheit has increased by 5.9 days. In Tyler, it’s 6.7 days. That is dwarfed by McAllen, with an increase of a whopping 21.9 days of extreme heat, and an increase of 31.6 days over 90 degrees.
Like many good things I see evaporating around me, the change of seasons causes me to pause and appreciate what we still have. Thanksgiving approaches, a chance to gather with people we love.
I hope I can wear that wool cardigan.