Changes

I started out the door the other day, then quickly turned back into the house and put a flannel shirt on over my tee shirt. Somewhere in the process, I sighed, deeply. 

It’s been months since I’ve worn a long-sleeved shirt, unless I was headed to a funeral or spending the day welding. I’ve spent the summer checking the forecast before I went to bed and if the nighttime temperature was going to be less than 70 degrees, I pushed all the windows wide open to let in some oxygen and cut the air-conditioning bill. I’m still doing that, but now there’s another blanket on the bed and I walk around the house sliding the windows shut as soon as I get up. If I set my coffee cup on a windowsill, it gets disgustingly cold right away. 

It’s the time of year that sees all sorts of transitions. I’m starting to see yellow leaves in the bean fields and the corn ears are beginning to hang. The honeybees seem a little frantic and we noticed they were even hovering over the geraniums, which doesn’t seem like prime honeybee territory. It would be like me munching on a rice cake. Technically, I’d be eating food, but you can assume the choice was a last resort. 

It’s important to remember that transitions are neither good nor bad. They just are. Unless you're already packed for Arizona, fall is on the horizon and there’s no stopping it. That means leaf cluttered lawns and flannel shirts, but it also means fresh apple cider and the sound of geese in the dark of the night. 

Our son told us a story about his time in the Marine Corps. There was some minor innovation that he was trying to implement. One platoon, for some reason, clung desperately to an old way of doing things.  Finally, in frustration, some guys mocked up a logo for them that read, “We Fear Change!” 

There’s a lot of that going around. 

But here’s the thing. Change is going to happen. Autumn comes, followed by winter, sometimes a lot faster than we’d like. A still vivid memory from nearly fifty years ago is the October blizzard that left footings for a new hog house buried under an eight-foot drift. Couldn’t stop it, couldn’t predict it, couldn’t even plan for it. We just needed to deal with it. 

At the time, I’m not sure I would have appreciated this next bit of wisdom. Nevertheless, it’s true. 

Without fall, without winter, without a stark period of change, many fruit trees and flowers won’t sprout and grow. No deep mystery to it – if a tree sprouts in the fall, winter will kill it. Requiring some cold before sprouting means the plant comes up in the spring and has six months or more to grow before the next winter rolls around. Even more amazing is that seeds from certain varieties of trees cannot grow unless they’ve gone through a fire. Lodgepole pine, Eucalyptus and some others have seeds that are enclosed in a resin that needs to burn off before the seed can germinate. Once again, no real mystery but still amazing – there's a lot of competition out there in the tree world and a big fire eliminates most of it. If a seed is prepared to sprout only after a fire has wiped out competitors, it’s going to do much better. 

Fall is coming, winter is coming, change is coming. It might be harsh and difficult, but that doesn’t mean it’s not necessary. 

Yesterday the flannel shirt came off by noon, but it’s hanging on a hook, ready for the next chilly morning. I know one is coming. 

Copyright 2022 Brent Olson