A change is in the air
Nov. 15, 2010
by Ivan Raconteur

All is quiet today, but those of us who have been around awhile know that this is just the calm before the storm.

The frantic barely-controlled chaos of the election is behind us, and Black Friday and the manic rush toward the holidays are still a couple of weeks ahead.

As I sit at my desk on this peaceful Saturday afternoon, the thin, pale, November sunshine is streaming through my window, splashing in defiant puddles on the natural wood finish of the door across the room.

Monday’s paper has been put to bed, and I have been going about my preparations for the next edition at a leisurely pace.

The office is quiet, but just as Monday morning will bring the chaos of phones ringing, keyboards clicking, and staff members noisily returning to work and wondering if anyone has made coffee, there is a change brewing outside my window, as well.

Harvest season has come and gone, pickup trucks loaded with hunters in strange apparel are on the move, and advertisements for church bazaars and holiday concerts have taken over the bulletin boards at the post office and in local shops.

It wasn’t so long ago when the world around us began to change from assorted greens to a palette of autumn reds, browns, and golds.

The transition happens quickly, though, and that last big storm must have blown the last of the leaves out of the trees when I wasn’t looking.

In the dark mornings, as I have emerged from the bachelor pad to take on each new day, I have noticed that frost has returned to the land, obscuring the windows of the cars along the street and making me glad I am able to enjoy the luxury of attached, indoor parking.

I can preserve the illusion of summer just a little bit longer, because I don’t actually have to step out into the elements until I reach the office.

The ground underfoot seems to be getting harder, and the wind that blows across the prairie has a new, sharper edge to it.

Soon, any puddles left overnight will change from liquid to solid in form.

I am reminded of my youth, walking to school (uphill, both ways) and pausing to examine the fancy lace borders with which the November winds had adorned the puddles along my route.

One day soon, the wind will carry more than a warning, and the white veil of winter will descend upon the land.

Old man winter will return with a vengeance and make us pay for the balmy days we have been enjoying.

The landscape becomes more desolate and foreboding at this time of year, but it can also bring about a coziness that is absent during the more temperate months.

Those of us in the northern regions instinctively prepare for the cold, dark months ahead.

I have already started moving fleece vests and shirts to the front of my closet, and relegating my cabana shirts to the space at the back, not to be seen again until their special appearance on New Year’s Eve.

Just last weekend, without any warning, I found myself foraging in the pantry, and the next thing I knew, a big pot of chili was simmering away on the stove.

From there, it was only a matter of time before a pan of corn bread was developing a golden brown crust in the oven, its sweet aroma wafting out to join the savory notes of peppers and spice emanating from the chili pot.

Real corn bread demands to be paired with honest, sweet cream butter, and cholesterol be damned. We need fortifying, to brace ourselves for what lies ahead, and we can worry about our arteries another day.

As long as I had the oven on, whipping up a batch of oatmeal cookies with two kinds of chips seemed like a good plan, as well.

One can go weeks without doing any serious cooking or baking in the summer, but at this time of the year, one never knows when one might get snowed in, and it pays to have supplies on hand to ward off starvation (not that some of us are in any imminent danger).

The smell of baking and the warmth of the oven contribute to the coziness that emerges at this time of year.

I look forward to seeing the kinfolks again. We all seem to run our separate ways during most of the year, but the coming of winter tends to bring us closer to home, as if we need to ground ourselves in preparation for the storms ahead.

People even talk closer at this time of year.

Watch a group of people during the summer months, and it appears that talking at arm’s length is the norm, but once the north wind begins to blow, people are more likely to huddle closer together like a companionable sort of rugby scrum when they have conversations, adding a certain intimacy to the most mundane discussion.

Christmas shopping, holiday parties, and scampering from relative to relative are all ahead of us, as are traversing icy roads, scraping windows, and shoveling snow (or perhaps watching others shovel snow).

Some of us will spend the next several months driving to work in the dark, driving home in the dark, and looking for creative ways to keep out the cold.

For now, it is nice to have some time to catch one’s breath, get some rest, and prepare for what comes next.

It will be here soon enough, whether we are ready or not.

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