OMG! It’s autumn! That means that winter is only three months away! What happened to summer? My hydrangeas never bloomed, and I have summer clothes that I never wore. (Well, they’re mainly tank tops that expose the worst parts of my arms, which shouldn’t be seen in public, anyway.)
In preparation, I bought an electric leaf blower, and my current dilemma is whether or not to blow leaves periodically as they fall from several hundred large trees in my wooded yard or wait until they all fall. If I start now, I’ll be bombarded by falling acorns. If I wait until the end of November, when all the leaves are down, I run the risk of an early snow turning them into four inches of slick mush that won’t blow at all. Looking at that mess all winter is too depressing to contemplate.
On Facebook, my friends wax poetic about sweaters, pumpkin recipes, and crisp fall air. The Daughter is planning her first Halloween party, and all I can think about is that leaves are falling, the days are shorter, and winter is setting in. My instincts tell me to grab my BFF Fiona and hunker down under a blanket on the sofa until March 1, 2015.
Living in Maryland, I’ve learned to fool myself into believing that autumn is really “Indian Summer,” until Thanksgiving, when the real autumn arrives on the Mayflower with John and Priscilla Alden and the other pious Puritans, followed by giant balloons and lip-synching celebrities on floats moving down Fifth Avenue in New York. (Yes, I know that is anachronistic; John and Priscilla didn’t marry until after they bumped into Plymouth Rock.)
Fall (September and October) was enjoyable as a child in Michigan. With my theatrical flair, Halloween was a favorite holiday, although we usually wore a winter coat over our costumes to trick-or-treat, which was a real downer. Then, there were high school football games on Friday night, college football on Saturday afternoons, and pro football on Sundays. Fall was preceded by hot, humid summer (June through August) and followed by long, nasty winter (November through May—read on).
In my head, winter actually starts the Monday after New Year’s Day. If I’m lucky, New Year’s falls on a Monday, which gives me one whole week to take down my Christmas tree. My goal is to vacation somewhere warm in January to lop off a couple weeks of winter. Football playoffs under the palm trees make it so much more bearable!
Snow at the holidays is delightful set-dressing. Snow on Groundhog Day is dirty, icy, hazardous, depressing filth. That’s why no one sings “Jingle Bells” or “Winter Wonderland” or “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” in February (whose only “musical” holiday is Valentine’s Day, which intensifies the depression.)
Still, winter here is better than winters that I remember from my childhood in Michigan, where the snow caked the sidewalks until it turned into layers of ice from November to April. As a college student at Michigan State, I daily wore a hat and scarf to cover my face, with only Vaseline covering the exposed skin beneath my eyes for protection from the wind. Crossing the campus from one side to the other was like a trek across Antarctica to the South Pole.
In Maryland, winter is supposed to last from January 7 through February 28 (with an extra, depressing day in Presidential Election years, aka Leap Year—watch out in 2016!). By March 1, Maryland is usually moving into spring, which I discovered when I moved here. It’s all snowdrops, pink and white dogwoods, and azaleas!
There was no spring in Michigan. Any season that required a special coat (yes, we had woolen spring coats) was not a separate season. Daffodils fought their way up through frozen clay in April. There was a snowstorm on April 11, 1957, when my baby sister was born, and there was snow on May 1, 1976, just before I moved to Maryland. This year, friends who live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (they’re “Youpers” to the uninitiated) reported that there were ice bergs floating on Lake Superior when they came south for a visit in June!
The Farmer’s Almanac says that winter 2014-2015 will mirror last winter, which lasted into April, which is why my hydrangeas haven’t bloomed! Keep your pumpkin pie. It’s time to plant bulbs, order two tons of wood pellets for my stove, stock up on ice melt, fill the generator with gas, and recharge the 12-volt batteries. A woman’s work is never done!
“Where’s the hope in all this?” I wonder. Let’s see…Time falls back at 2:00 am on Sunday, November 2, for an extra hour of sleep. The Ravens are playing their typical “It looks like we’re trying to lose this game but will pull it out in the last heart-stopping 10 seconds.” The Orioles may play the Tigers for the AL pennant, which is a win-win for me. I have Fiona to snuggle up with when the winds howl through the trees, and, after 6:03 pm, on Sunday, December 31, the shortest day of the year, the days will get longer again. I might make it, after all. So, who am I to complain? Life is good (mostly). Soli Deo Gloria!
To ward off the chill:
Cozy Crock Pot Cider
½ gallon apple cider
1 quart orange-pineapple juice
2 sticks of cinnamon
12 cloves, tied in cheesecloth
1 cup dark rum (or to taste – optional)
Combine all ingredients in crock pot and heat until warm, about 1 hour.