Another blue-sky day graces our hills, although there are lingering hints that fall is creeping nearer and nearer.
The green foliage on the trees has now a yellowing tint, as the leaves prepare to put on their autumn garments. The cry of the katydids grow more urgent each night, as if they know that their time here on earth will soon come to an end. Early autumn settles down gently on our hills and valleys with cool, foggy mornings that give away to hot sunshine and blue skies later in the day. Dry corn blades rustle in the air, and the still-green pumpkin vines wind in and out of the cornstalks, with their fat, yellow pumpkins gleaming gold on the ground.
The whippoorwills made huge, swooping dives through the evening air last night, calling and gathering their clan together for their trip south. Hopefully, Hurricane Dorian has settled down so that their trip will be safe. Daddy always said that when the whippoorwills leave, it is time for the man of the house to get out of bed and build the morning fires. Soon a fire will feel good as the air becomes more chill.
Many housewives are getting ready to do their fall cleaning. The house is sort of left to itself during the summer when gardening tasks come first, and then the produce must be properly prepared for the winter ahead. I know I must begin, yet my mind lingers over the garden, wondering if there is a sweet pepper left behind, or a ripe tomato that hasn’t been picked. We will surely miss this garden goodness when it is all gone. Cornstalks await the eager hands that will gather them for fodder shocks to use in their fall decorations, with the orange pumpkins piled beside them. Right now they are decorated with wild morning glory vines—velvet flowers of bright pink, many shades of blue, soft lavender and a deep purple that is almost black. The shadowed nooks and the creek bank give out a coolness that is the very breath of fall. Soon the frost will come, like a thief in the night, and lay waste the beauty of the morning glories, and all the green and growing things.
I realize that I too need to ready our house for winter, and not just think about it. In the summer rush of gardening and canning, the housework seems to get lost in the shuffle. I am not going to speak of the state of our house, but when the Clorox jug needs a good scrubbing; I can tell that it’s time to do something! I’ve had readers tell me that they clean house all year long, but here in West Virginia, spring and fall season brings out the scrub buckets and elbow grease.
Growing up, we didn’t have the modern ways of cleaning that we do now. Mom would take down the lacy window curtains and after washing them, give them a heavy starching. While they were wet with starch, she would pin them to curtain stretchers (remember them?) with its hundreds of little pins. What a difference now! We just throw them in the washing machine, and then the dryer, and they are ready to hang back up on the clean windows.
I remember how we took the few pieces of carpet out on the clothesline and give them a good beating. Mom would scrub the wood floors with hot water and lye, and they would gleam whitely. Every two or three years, she would put up fresh wallpaper—the heavy Wallrite paper that further weatherized our Jenny Lind house. It usually had a gray background, and I remember one leafy green pattern that ran through it. Papering the nine-foot ceiling was a man-sized job, yet I remember Mom tackling this by herself. She was such a hard worker, with no modern conveniences, and it still boggles my mind to think of how hard she worked.
I remember when she told me that she felt guilty because she had so much time to read. When we were growing up, the only time I saw her sit down to read was when she plied the old churn and dasher for the constant churning of the buttermilk. She would sit on a kitchen chair with her Bible on her lap and read and churn. After she got too old to work, she loved to read—until her Vascular Dementia got so bad that she couldn’t keep her mind on the words. I told her that if anyone earth had earned the time to read—it was my Mom.
I’ve had some people to tell me that they don’t like the fall season because it is too sad. It is true that there is a certain sadness connected with this season. I suspect that it too closely parallels our own life cycle. We can think back to the vigorous springtime of our youth. With excitement, energy and ambition we set out to make our mark in the world. All too soon, summer came and we settled down to raising families, hard work and finding the real purpose in our lives.
With many of us, fall has settled down gently upon us, with our hair turning silver as surely as the leaves turn on the trees. Yet, it is a good and beautiful season! With our children and most of our grandchildren raised, it is time to slow down and enjoy living. With the slowing down of nature all about us, it needs to be a restful time for us also.
It is time to reevaluate our lives and consider what is really important. It is time to sit on the front porch swing and watch the glowing sunset. Time for those who can, to meander through the fields and woods and to mediate upon the goodness of God. For in the final analysis, what is really important? Solomon, who was far wiser than any of us, says in Ecc. 12:13-14, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”
What does it matter if the last season we have as mortals is winter? Each season is a joy, and each day should be lived with confidence and thanksgiving. I like this motto, “This is the first day of the rest of your life.”