Cold season rides in on clearing skies


Why do the cold and dark have to come on so quickly?

Saturday was warm enough for Bermuda shorts.

But then everything changed. A cold rain swept through, the skies cleared. Last night I needed a wool blanket. And a dose of cough syrup as well. Somehow we're into the head cold season. Pass the handkerchiefs.

One of the neighbors had a wood fire going; the unmistakable scent of burning oak floated over the neighborhood.

The seasonal change came on so quickly. The window air conditioner is back in its storage box. And the neighborhood Rite Aid has put on a full display of Christmas cards.

It may be Oct. 4 but the signs point to a rapidly approaching December. Didn't I buy a new pair of wool gloves last week even though I've yet to put away the summer's bathing suits? I think there is still a lot of Summer of 1994 beach sand left in my luggage.

The days seem to be slipping away. Yet I've got a stack of bulbs to plant in the garden before it gets too cold. And I'm gently reminding my house painter to get the front porch done before my neighbor's giant locust tree turns to confetti. We'll never get that mess of tiny leaves off fresh, wet paint.

Are you ready for Standard Time? Not just yet.

I'm a coward when it's cold. My friends brag they don't turn on a furnace until sometime around Thanksgiving. I'm not so brave. Let it get raw and damp and my hands will be punching up that thermostat.

Besides, one of the very reassuring sounds of fall is not the rustle of leaves but the low thud and chug of a reliable furnace. But did I pay last month's gas bill?

And is there any more welcome sound than the banging of radiator pipes on a clear and cold October morning? And the height of indulgence is stealing an extra 30 minutes of sleep on these chilly days.

And if the mornings are surprisingly cool, the afternoons are surprisingly sumptuous. And so short. Those October sunsets are just about perfect. Look fast.

And it's now high time to bag the cold cereal. Bring on the hot steaming oatmeal and brown sugar. Eat so much you skip lunch.

And the apple cider. One of my favorite fall feelings is the case of stomach bends you suffer from consuming just too much of this elixir. But who can resist?

In my kitchen hangs a "Chart for the Table," a list of recommendations some 19th century cook devised for the Baltimore palate. The October inventory is thus: "Beef, bacon, mutton, veal, fresh pork, sausage, rock, perch, mackerel, herrings, oysters, eggs, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, cabbage, hominy, beets, apples, peaches, grapes, pears and damsons."

Let's skip the mutton and mackerel but ask for seconds on the sweet potatoes.

It is a time of decision. Can my old winter coat make it through one more season? No. Then should it go into the trash can or be given to some charity. Will some charity accept it? Decisions.

Not to worry. There is time for one last crab feast. But hurry. The snowball stands have been closed for a month. People have already started asking when the old-fashioned sour beef dinners are scheduled at the church halls. Can't wait. Don't ask me which sour beef is best. I like them all.

After a summer of rain and mildew, my windows could stand to be washed. Will I do them myself? Highly unlikely. But will I hire a professional window cleaning service? Highly unlikely. Maybe I'll do the ones that show the most dirt.

Will I remember to make the time to walk along the shore of Lake Roland, or along the Northern Central Bike Trail, or the Baltimore & Annapolis Trail this month?

These destinations are far less ambitious than attempting Vermont or Garrett County.

At least we now have the chance to go to professional football games again.

Now does anybody have a quick cure for an early fall head cold? Maybe I should try the mackerel.

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