I'm of the opinion that fall light arrives at some indistinct point in August, at least in the "upper South." I noticed it last weekend, or maybe it was early this week, looking out my window by my weigh-station at the scrap metal store where I work. Admittedly, the office is air conditioned, which means that if the light is right, one might imagine just about any pleasant season going on out there. Frequently my little trip to the hamburger joint for lunch is a blast-o-reality much like that encountered upon leaving the supermarket on a hot humid day. Here in NC it's been 90 and above almost constantly since late June, with quite a few days getting close to 100.
My homemade dish in a fall past:
Anyway. There is a "fall light." It has to do with where the sun rises on the horizon, and how the shadows fall across the tree trunks and lawns, and usually it arrives some time before those wonderful fall temperatures, when the joys of sawing and splitting firewood and the hint of wood smoke in the air are still far to the north of us. If we have a wood fire here in September I'll be surprised. Back thirty years or so we'd have frost now and then in September--that too is most unlikely in the 21st Century. And of course being the weather, Fats Waller will always be right, just like the broken watch (but much more delightful): "One never knows, do one."
Today Libby and I head out to play an afternoon wedding over at a little place called Sherrill's Ford. It sounds a bit like a car dealership, but I think it's a spot near a lake over north of Charlotte and west of Lexington. Daughter of old friends of ours is getting married. We remember her as a tyke, just as we remember our own daughter (now 31) at all those various "ages" children go through as they grow up. She and the bride, Sarah, grew up together more or less. We'd go over to Sarah's house, eat, watch a rental movie, of a weekend. I think I'd tend to go to sleep during the movie. Sarah's dad did construction like I do now and then. Sarah's mother and Libby commuted together for a while, the long haul from out here in the deep Piedmont woods to the northern apex of the Research Triangle.
The time passed as it will, and the oak and hickory trees I pitched my log cabin under got another twenty feet taller without my noticing, and back in '96, when Hurricane Fran paid us a visit, quite a number of them fell over, somehow managing not to hit the house even if they did take the power line down. It was a message though, and now, while I love the cool shade they give us, I also look at them carefully, noticing the not quite plumb way they stand, remembering how the ones that fell seemed to be balanced on thin dinner plates of roots and soil--so thin that it seemed unlikely that they could remain standing for decades and decades as in fact they do. There's also the fact that the Red Oaks amongst the gathering seem to be dying, and are probably a third of the total group of giants. When a Red Oak dies it keeps standing for several years, but the roots are rotting in the ground, just like the branches are rotting overhead. Then a much gentler wind can knock them over, or a big branch can suddenly let go when it gets soggy from a rain. These trees are known as "widow makers" because someone sawing them can be killed by a silent, falling branch from up above, shaken loose just by the vibrations of the saw.
These widow makers make perfect firewood, since they're dried out standing. A lot of my firewood I gather by sawing up ones that have already fallen, deep in the woods. They will remain dry for years, held up by their top branches. I get the pleasure of wandering the woods to find them, the fun of sawing and splitting them, and rolling them out to the truck with the wheelbarrow. Then driving back to the house, tossing them off to make a great looking pile that says "ok, you'll be nice and warm for another chunk of time, you've caught up with the weather now." Then getting it stacked, under a piece of roof tin--and about then even if it's cold, a nice beer sitting on the stoop and just looking at the work done.
So the start of all this fun is right now, Saturday morning, August 21, 2010. The fall light is here.
Personally, I enjoy firewood gathering on Sunday morning. Then I can come inside and watch something on the Dish. With a nice fire of course.