There is a chill inside my home this morning. The air is filled with the aroma of pumpkins and spices. Colors of red, orange, yellow and gold catch my eye wherever I look. It is the first day of autumn, my favorite time of year. But wait! The high today will be ninety two degrees here in Houston. The brisk temperature that I feel has been artificially produced by my trusty air conditioner. The lovely autumnal smell is only the product of a Yankee candle. I see fall colors thanks to the collection of artificial items that I place around my home at this time each season. Were it not for Hobby Lobby and Michael’s fall in Houston would look exactly the same as the middle of July. I have to conjure a great deal of imagination to realize that a change of seasons is actually taking place.
I just returned from a week long stay in the mountains near Rocky Mountain National Park. There I enjoyed the true splendor of autumn produced by Mother Nature at her finest. The landscape was awash with spectacular colors that seemed almost to have been painted on the leaves that fluttered enticingly in the wind. I wore my sweaters during the day and snuggled under a warm blanket at night, all without the aid of mechanical devices designed to keep my environment comfortable. The clean smell of pine overwhelmed my olfactory senses. The world around me seemed to be balanced and as perfect as it ought to be. The cycle of seasons was operating so perfectly that even the animals understood what time of year we were entering. It felt so right.
I love the fall but have had to manufacture it of late because I live in the south near the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. There are actually people who begin a yearly pilgrimage to my part of the country at about this time. They are fleeing the coming ravages of winter which will most surely visit their northern homes. They live like snowbirds who seek warmer climes in which to survive the harshness of the coming days. I see their trailers in the RV parks and their foreign license plates from places like Minnesota, Nebraska and Michigan. They flee from the very weather that I have never really seen and would so love to experience.
Each year as my fall birthday approaches in the middle of November I am just as likely to be wearing shorts and flip flops as one of my sweaters that never wears out. I only replace my winter gear when it becomes hopelessly out of style. I rarely use it enough to tarnish its sheen of newness. Unless I travel to one of the colder places it often seems like overkill to even take my coats from the closet where I store them all year long.
There used to be a sliver of fall and winter here in Houston. When I was a child I recall enjoying seventy degree days in October and as November rolled around we always lit the pilot light on our heater because we were bound to have some cold nights. I suggest that all climate change deniers spend some time where I live to realize that it appears to get warmer and warmer every single year, a fact that worries me intensely. Even my rabidly conservative but science-oriented brother admits that we are indeed experiencing a worldwide warming trend that is having a dramatic effect on our very existence. We humans are changing the rhythm and flow of nature and ultimately the results will be devastating if we don’t agree to take measures to slow the tide of a warming atmosphere that is artificially creating a climate that brings us more and more severe weather patterns and natural disasters. The data doesn’t lie no matter how much we humans choose to ignore the facts.
I just drove through the heart of what had been the dustbowl during the Great Depression of the twentieth century. The drought that overtook parts of Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas would certainly have caused many problems for the farmers who lived there but the situation became even more dire than it needed to be because they had interrupted nature. The people had plowed over the native grasses designed to anchor the soil to the earth. Without those simple little plants the winds carried the dirt high into the sky like great filthy clouds. There were continual storms of dust rather than rain that often made it impossible to see or even to breathe. The desperate people lost their incomes, their lands and sometimes even their lives. It was only when proper planting methods were eventually introduced that the area began to slowly come back to life. Sadly the ravages of that era are still apparent in some small towns where buildings on main streets are empty and populations continue to decline.
There are scientists among us who have studied such things. They understand the soil, the insects, the plants, and the weather. They are able to explain the symbiotic nature of our world. It is time that we listened to their warnings or the day may come when we humans no longer have the ability to create the comforts that we seek. We may simply have to endure the assaults from nature that will most surely come if we choose to ignore the warning signs that are all around us.
I love the natural flow of the life cycle. I enjoy being as one with the earth, a visitor no more important to the way of things than the tiniest bug. I don’t want my footprint to disturb the earth but I instinctively know that it does. I want to do my tiny little part to make my presence a bit less destructive. I suppose that if each of us were to begin just one form of conservation on a daily basis our collective efforts would begin to make a small dent in the problems that are making our earth sick. Instead of ridiculously asserting that climate change is a myth our politicians need to join together in crafting a global plan that will be as painless as possible to people everywhere. We must use our natural human abilities to find acceptable and forward thinking answers without destroying livelihoods. We have done it before and I have little doubt that we might do it again.
So on this first morning of autumn I intend to enjoy my favorite time of year with a bit of gardening if I can manage to endure the heat. At my age there is always an uncertainty that I will see another September 22 so I have to seize the day with all of the gusto that I am able to muster. With all of those fall wreaths showing up on the doors of my neighbor’s homes pumpkin cheesecake can’t be far behind and what is better than that? Happy Fall to those of us north of the equator and Happy Spring to everyone below. The world is still a wonderful place. Let’s keep it that way.