A cool breeze caresses the skin, pleasurable, not cold, not biting, but soft, fragrant, spicy, gentle. It is time for sweaters and boots, scarves and knit hats, and yet, there is orange, autumn sunshine. It is the perfect time of year, the fleeting first week of October, gone all too soon. Only a few weeks away is the first snow, and dressing for warmth will be in earnest. For now, however, the sweaters are optional – not quite required but almost. These are the best days, but also, the shortest lived. In Colorado, there is winter and summer. Spring and autumn are not full seasons, but rather, transitional afterthoughts of a negligent Nature which only knows extremes. Spring is a blip in time; a gateway into summer and nothing more – three or four weeks of thundery hailstorms, possibly a thick, wet, almost warm snow, followed by swiftly climbing temperatures. Autumn is the juxtaposed gateway into winter, a few weeks of cooler days and falling leaves and perfect light, followed by deep temperatures and the arrival of winter. Therefore, the days in which Autumn gracefully swirls her skirts of golden foliage are effectively numbered, and we will spend all winter wishing to go back to them, and feeling cheated that she did not attend our area of the yearly party longer. Each moment we can grasp in her loveliness is thoroughly enjoyed, gazing on grass that has not yet turned brown with winter, but is covered in sporadic orange and yellow leaves.
“The night will be cold tonight rather than just cool, as it has been up until today,” we think as we watch the bunnies that will soon be more scarce romp around in the transitionally colored bushes. “Tomorrow, I will wear leg warmers rather than be cold,” follows that thought. And with it, we know that while we cannot see winter with his white beard, he is just over a few mountain ranges away and will arrive before we know it, his hair and beard blowing snow before him as he comes, his robes whipping the wind up to rip at our eaves, his invisible hands wringing and twisting the trees that surround our homes, making an awful lot of noise. He will be insisting we pay him his homage – our attention, our huddling around the tiny spark of our fires for warmth, our acknowledgement of the frailty of human skin that cannot grow fur to adapt.
Finally, after months of trying to kill us all and succeeding only in part, by killing a few and sapping the spirits of the rest of us, Spring, who is his enemy, will knock him down, and breathing hard, she will try to pretend she is him for a while. She will blow snow, but her snow will not be like his, lacking force, quieter, heavier, thicker, wetter, and warmer. She will finally realize she cannot be Winter, and will give up her game, releasing the growing things and their flowers from their bondage to the cold. Taking pity, finally, on the poor Sun, she will allow him to touch the Earth for a while on many days, eventually giving him full concession, which he will end up taking advantage of to knock her out and go on a mad rampage of burning, blazing months until Autumn comes again, and blows coolly on his cheek, bringing him back to his senses and his proper self. Ever in competition for mastery, these scenes play out the same way, year after year, and we are nothing if not at their mercy.
Whimsical Winter Art by Lorraine Hall