The Other Signs of Fall

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The "most normal looking picture we managed" says my college friend Cameron, on Robert's first day of second grade and Max's first day of kindergarten. (The chicken has completed her formal education.)
“The most normal looking picture we managed” from college friend Cameron on Robert’s first day of second grade and Max’s first day of kindergarten. (Gladys the chicken has completed her formal education.)

The equinox is past. At last, fall has come to the northern hemisphere.

Some of the ways the new season shows up are obvious. The sunset creeps earlier and earlier as we race toward the winter solstice. The air cools. Pumpkin spice is in every product imaginable.

Others are subtler. There’s the spooky Halloween decoration store that opened near my office, and the equally scary specter of potential government shutdown.

Here are some of the nicest ways that the world has let me know we’re tilting away from the sun.

Back-to-school pictures.

This is a Facebook season unto itself, kicking off with the early school systems in August and going through Virginia’s post-Labor-Day start. All those young faces, full of excitement, souls not yet crushed by factoring or memorizing French rivers or whatever it is that is crushing the kids’ souls these days. School supplies in hand, clothes carefully chosen, they’re ready to embark on another adventure of learning.

The fact that my friends and relations have produced such curious, hilarious, mysterious small people is a marvel every day, and a particular delight when they start posing in driveways for the ceremonial end-of-summer photo. (Or, occasionally, posing sulkily in cars, because MOOOOMMMMM.)

Crocuses.

APPARENTLY THEY BLOOM IN FALL. Or some of them, anyway. I saw a patch today, thought they were confused, shared a picture – and was informed that no, some crocuses are supposed to bloom at this time of year.

So not only does the hardy crocus proclaim the end of winter; some of them also pop their heads above the ground to tell us of its snowy approach.

Thanks, crocuses!

Flu shot.

Flu season starts in October. I snuck in my shot on September 30. The nice lady at the HMO and I commiserated about how badly designed the form was (Dear Kaiser Permanente: If you want people to write their name and their medical record number, you should provide two blanks), she poked me in the arm, and I went on my way, protected.

I like getting a flu shot. I’m like a tiny superhero, doing my part for the public’s health. One little pinch and I’m invincible! Against a few strains of flu. Which might be the ones that circulate. We’ll see.

Delight.

I’ve begun to wonder if there’s some kind of reverse seasonal affective disorder, where instead of getting depressed in the winter, you get grumpy and miserable in summer. (A brief google suggests…maybe.) By the end of July I’m like a frontier family in a blizzard, but with more Netflix and knitting. It’s too hot outside for life. It barely cools off after sunset, and by the time the sun goes down in summer it’s practically my bedtime anyway. Long walks are my main coping mechanism and pretty much my only exercise, and in summer those just stink. (And they make me stink, too.)

When the temperature drops and the humidity leaves town, I feel like a new person. Turn red, trees! Fly south, birds! Send the snow! Send the ice! I’m ready!

Photo: Cameron Cobden

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