It is 82 degrees and sunny today in Louisville, Kentucky. The leaves are changing colors and falling off the trees, crunching underfoot, right on cue, and yet the air is neither crisp nor brisk. As a consequence, both my body and my mind are confused. I cannot believe, under the circumstances, that it is really fall, that summer is well over, that September – September! – is coming to a close. My eyes see the leaves, my body sweats through my t-shirt, and my mind concludes, “Well-orchestrated kamikaze mission on the part of nature in protest of something I cannot identify or understand.” It is the only explanation. My conscious mind knows that winter is indeed coming and that these leaves are responding naturally, not politically, but my body understandably refuses to believe it. My roommate is running the air-conditioner, for chrissakes, and I can’t even be mad. I cannot even, as the kids say, front. It’s hot outside and our apartment gets no cross-breeze, not even in a hurricane with every window open.
Today marks the start of my last month of my first year in Kentucky, which means I’m running out of standard firsts altogether. There will be other firsts, unique ones – first visit to a particular museum or restaurant or event or part of the state – but the easily identifiable demarcates of time marching inexorably on should be well plotted out soon: what fall feels like, what summer feels like, what usually happens in the months of February and March. (Nothing. Nothing happens in the months of February and March. Not anywhere in the world. Go on, check. I’ll wait.)
I was here last year for the end of October and I remember it being cold enough for a thin cardigan to leave me chilly, and my roommate assures me that by mid-October mind and body will be in agreement on the season. But then, to be fair, it is 78 degrees in Boston today and the same 82 in Sunapee, New Hampshire, where fall has always arrived precisely and chillingly on time on September 1 like clockwork, so maybe this is the new climate-change reality to which we will all, North and South, grow begrudgingly accustomed together.