Wadena walks: Fall is all around town
Fall has officially arrived. Summer has carefully packed up its swimsuits and shorts and left for another year.
Summer's departure has not gone unnoticed by the climatic forces of nature, and the recent change in seasons has forced me to alter my daily walking routine. Not long ago I had to wait until the sun began to sink down and lose some of its intensity before I went on a walk. Now, on most days, I pull on my Nikes and rush out the door while the sun's rays are still generous enough to share a little of their warmth.
However, the biting temperatures and brisk wind certainly make invigorating walking companions. The leisurely walks that are so tempting during the long, lazy days of summer lose their allure when the scent of fall in the air gives notice that Mr. Frost ("Jack" to his friends) will soon be here.
March may be the month best known for its winds, but for me the defining image of September comes from a Garfield calendar I got when I was 9 years old. The cartoon for the transitional month from summer to fall featured a trench coat-wearing Garfield shielding himself from a gust of whirling leaves.
Most of the leaves in Wadena are still green and attached to their respective trees, but I've spotted a few colorful maples already. On a quiet cul-de-sac I noticed one woman who has started raking leaves. Quite a few more leaves will have to die and fall before she will be done with her raking job, though. As I continued walking, most of the lawn care I witnessed involved homeowners using their mowers to trim the grass after the rain. But even though the sound of lawn mowers evokes images of summer, the scent of freshly mown grass could not overpower the scent of leaves and fallen pine needles as I passed by.
This time of year, riding mowers and push mowers have some additional unnatural lawn ornaments to maneuver around -- campaign signs. On television, the state candidates' soft-sell election commercials of summer have made the transition into biting attacks on opponents as election day approaches. However, most of the signs that perforate the ground I walk by are for local candidates whose ads consist of simple "vote for so-and-so" messages.
Another sure sign of fall is the return of kids to school. The transition from summer freedom to schoolwork was not so welcome for one young member of a family I passed by on my way home. The boy asked his parents, "Do I have to go to school tomorrow?"
His mother replied, "Yes."
Her answer did not please the little boy who responded, "But my throat still hurts when I swallow." The boy's concerns became safe from any further eavesdropping, however, as I walked in the opposite direction.
The transition from summer to fall extends beyond the school room and applies to kids as well as adults. Boys inspired to play football after watching their favorite teams on television, snowmobiles loaded on trailers and an occasional man topped off by a bright orange hunting cap have all appeared on my walk. They serve as proof that the days are numbered for the flowers pots, fishing boats, pontoons and jet skis that line the streets and driveways of Wadena.
The days for walking during a sunlit evening are numbered as well. I've often been surprised to see an orange glow coloring the clouds as the sun sets and tells me I need to start a path for home. It's an event that happens sooner than I expect.
The days are getting shorter and the sun is becoming more of a distant relative than the close companion of summer, but fall still features some of the most beautiful days of the entire year. Each nice day becomes increasingly valuable as the long winter gradually approaches. Soon I will have to trade my walks for a membership at the Wadena Community Center if I don't want to half-walk and half-slip my way through the dark that descends after 5 p.m. in the winter.
But fall is only a week old and I shouldn't dread the approaching cold too much. Hopefully, I still have many weeks before I trade my sneakers in for snow boots.