Fall officially started Wednesday September 22nd . Today it’s 97 degrees. What’s wrong with this picture?!
Autumn has always been my favorite season. Summer retreats with its oppressive heat trailing off to another part of the world. A delicious crisp chill wafts in like the scent of a ripe Macintosh apple. The hills of southern Indiana light up with the fiery colors of autumn leaves going out in a blaze of glory. Fall’s crunchy confetti comes swirling down, providing kids a new pool to splash around in. The smell of Halloween is just around the corner!
*Sigh* So here we sit among wilting brown leaves, falling faded and curled like dead bugs to dry ground. Forget about roasting marshmallows on a stick over an open fire. There’s been a ban on burning for some time now. Though the humidity was draining us in August, the lack of it now fuels the potential for fires. Winds are picking up, which provides a little relief in the breeze, but it also carries the flick of a cigarette or a spark from an engine across the dry leaves at high speed. Already there have been several field and barn fires. We haven’t seen a good rain around here most of the summer!
Thinking back, I remember how grateful my plants and I were for those gifts of daily drizzle in the spring. I didn’t have to water anything, and they were happy thriving little bushes and flowers. Then summer rain started slacking off. By August, which normally gives us about 4″ of rain, we got less than an inch. That little bit came in 2 days. Thus far, September isn’t any wetter. Not one good earth-soaking downpour has blessed this part of the earth since spring.
Bloomington is now in a moderate drought zone, just on the edge of severe drought a few miles to our south. Even our normally jovial TV weather guy in Indianapolis, shakes his head as he points out how that good rain to our west is going to break up into little spotty showers by the time it gets to our area, missing most counties to the south, like us.
My spouse and I strolled along an area of Lake Monroe, Bloomington’s water source, a couple of weeks ago. We noticed we were treading on cracked ground that obviously had been underwater not too long before. The young guys who mow lawns around here have seen their business dwindle over the summer. The dry browning grass just isn’t growing worth mowing. Sure, we can plan a picnic or a ball game any day we want with no fear it’ll be rained out. But there is an ominous feeling that comes with constantly clear blue skies.
Nature so easily rips off that cloak of civilization and technology we’ve cocooned ourselves in with water from a faucet, fire from a stove, light from the flick of a switch. As I watch forgotten birdbaths go dry, grass recede from dusty dirt mounds, limp leaves turn brown and miss their turn to be glorious, it isn’t a far stretch to imagine what if the rain didn’t come. What if this were a place or time when rains disappear and take the water sources, the crops, the animals and hope for life. Not to be morose, but it happens.
We’re not headed into a drought of Biblical proportion here. Encouraging reports show we may even get some significant rain in the next few days. But even then, it’s too late to give us the bright optimal autumn that draws thousands of tree-lovers & tourists to nearby Brown County every fall. Southern Indiana doesn’t hit its peak colors until late October, but this year we may be in for an earlier, dustier, drearier autumn season. That’s a mere blip on the radar of nature’s fluctuating cycles. But it’s a good poke in our complacency about how removed we may feel in our comfy shelters.
Waiting for rain, waiting for the autumn chill, I’m struck with a stark sense of humbling vulnerability to nature. And our reliance on the seasons to follow their eternal order. No matter what, we still need sun & rain & a fertile earth in balance. After living through a few summers of drought in my lifetime, I never want to sing “Rain rain, go away”. I’m ready to open my big rainbow umbrella and sing, “Here Comes the Rain Again”. And soon!