by Julia Buckley
There’s a famous line spoken by Hamlet in one of his soliloquies: “Time is out of joint; oh curséd spite that ever I was born to set it right!”
It’s an apt metaphor, I think, for the fall we’ve been having, which puts me on edge, makes me uneasy in its unnaturalness. For one thing, all of our trees are still green. (The tree pictured here is in my front yard; the photo was taken today). In autumns past, this was already the peak color weekend, and vast drifts of leaves were blowing around yards and gathering at car fenders.
Today the foliage is still on the trees, as though summer still hadn’t heard that it was supposed to leave town. Added to that, the weather has been unpleasantly warm. I like my Octobers cold; I’m conditioned to need that bitter weather because it’s a part of the cycle of the Midwest; cold autumns go with football, warm-up food like stew and chili, cozy blankets and heaters. Jack-o-lanterns weren’t meant to be lit while flowers bloom and bugs still buzz past our ears. (That's my Red Riding Hood Mandevilla, still blooming happily on my front porch). Pumpkins should contrast with gray skies; they endure chilled rains with seasonal stoicism.
If these changed temps (which are supposed to bring severe storms later in the week, when they clash with a cold front) are an indicator of global warming, then I am fearful not only as an autumn-lover, but as a writer. What will fall be in the future? How will we write it then? Will the seasons blend into one another until there is little beauty left in the distinctions? Will we have to write about autumnal splendor in retrospect, as something we have lost?
Yesterday, on top of this weather oddity, we lost our electricity for five hours. My husband and I were distinctly irritable, and we agreed that the unseasonable weather had been bad enough, but to be deprived of light and all modern conveniences at the same time made it feel that, indeed, time was out of joint.
Things will get better, of course. It will be colder next week, although we may have missed our chance for fall color. The leaves may drop green and wither quickly. Time, currently out of joint, will tell if this is a trend or a warning.
But I’m concerned. Look how things turned out for Hamlet.