The cool rains driven by early September storms have come to the Midwest. The dry grasses of August don’t know what to do with all this sudden moisture. Our drought is perhaps broken, but the browns will perhaps persist all the way through fall.
As Jeff Lynne of ELO once wrote in a song titled It’s Over,
Summer came and passed away…hardly seemed to last a day, but it’s over…
That image symbolizes a lost love relationship. But it works both ways. Perhaps we all feel that way as summer fades and we think back on how well we used the warmth and sunshine.
I vow every year to immerse all senses in the glories of summer. But an anxious mind always finds things to think about beyond the green grass and butterflies. It’s a lifelong struggle to live in the moment.
Still, we did have some great runs in the heat. There is nothing like summer sweat to make you realize you’re alive.
But this summer was odd with it isolation and change. During this Covid crisis and working from home, I only wore a pair of long pants twice between the end of June and the start of September. Surely that is a record of some sorts for me, but what does it matter? I guess it means that in some respects, summer warmth was not wasted.
I do recall that a high school coach once said that if you can make yourself train even through July, the dividends come fall are great. In those days, I barely made good on that promise. But these days, summer represents some of the largest volume of training all year. Funny how things change.
Our cycling trips were not as long as some summers before, and I didn’t manage to do any group rides at all. My longest ride was 73 miles in just over four hours. That’s nearly 18mph, a rate that I’d have been proud to ride even ten years ago when I first got serious on the bike. I was thinking about going all the way to a Century, but something in me said “You know what? 73 miles is still a long way.”
Swim suits me
Then there was open water swimming. We traveled to Crystal Lake and slipped into the water for early morning swims even though that activity was technically banned. Local residents looked the other way as triathletes used a tiny local park for access.
One morning while plying along in my Roka swim shorts I looked up to see a fisherman sitting in his small boat. “How goes the bite?” I asked during a pause in swimming with my head poking up out of the water. “Pretty good,” he replied. From that perspective, it was the first time I ever felt like a true fish.
We also swam out in Arizona in early spring, and again down in Florida this past month. Both pools were so warm that our bodies radiated heat upon standing up out of the water. Such are the extremes of the sport we call swimming.
We’ll swim open water one more time this weekend in an off-the-record triathlon in Madison. One more chance to act like a fish before the water cools for good with autumn’s onset.
Signs of fall
Already there are cottonwood and poplar leaves littering the lawns. There is other detritus as well.
Last night I had to go out and search for my phone in a wet field after losing it while running around and playing rough with our dog Lucy. I went to bed that night without realizing the phone was missing. The next morning we searched the house madly, even sending multiple calls from my wife’s phone to see if we could hear mine vibrating.
A click on the Find My app on the laptop showed me where the phone was. I’d lost it among the grass and fallen leaves. It was covered in water and lurking among some dead sticks and dark leaves. I was grateful to find it. Thank you GPS.
Autumn closing in
There are still frogs hopping around in the grass in our lawn when I mow. They come up from the wetland to hunt for crickets in the cool shade behind the cedars. Soon they’ll retreat to the wetland when the nights get so cold they have no choice. Their amphibian instincts will send them down into the mud for a long winter’s nap. Hibernation. On some days, I might prefer to join them.
As for me and my kind, we’re typically enervated by the onset of cooler days. Our runs feel easier when the humidity isn’t 85% and the sun doesn’t bake us into submission.
When September arrives, all those years of fall racing spin through my mind. The cross country meets in high school and college. The autumn road races through my early 20s. Getting so fit that you could hardly contain the urge to run. Sometimes I’d run three times a day. Yes, I do love autumn.
These days, those instincts may be tempered a bit by age and metabolism, but they’re still there. The crunch of fall leaves on the trails still beckon. The turn of a hawk on the autumn breeze catches the eye. The call of ducks in the marsh seems to come from some deep place in our conscience. Come November, a spin of sandhill cranes in the sky signals that fall is over as well. It’s happens with a purpose. It is ours to take it in.
Summer’s over. Do you love autumn?