Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Time is Out of Joint

by Julia Buckley
There’s a famous line spoken by Hamlet in one of his soliloquies: “Time is out of joint; oh curs├ęd 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.


Nina Wright said...

Julia--I recently blogged about this very topic, though with a slant on swimming (vis a vis the forthcoming Whiskey and Water), because it was hot enough in eastern MI and northern OH to *swim* on Columbus Day. I have pictorial proof!

You're right, of course, that here in the Heartland we don't expect the weather at Halloween to feel like the weather on Labor Day. Those flowers should all be dead! This is flu season, people. The dark months when heating bills escalate, and everybody gets depressed. That's the Divine Plan.

I grew up in the Midwest, so I understand. But I have a confession: the years I spent in Florida took away my taste for that first hard frost. Christmas shopping in shorts and sandals may not be right, but it feels oh-so fine.

Candy Calvert said...

Welcome to South Texas, Julia!

But I do know what you mean--I MISS Northern California autumns, that crisp chill, the color, first logs in the fireplace . . . overdosing on candycorn and those little Brach's mellocreme pumpkins.

I'm off to Seattle in the morning, and I'll check it out for you--to see if Fall is hunkering down out there.

Mark Terry said...

Here in Michigan it's mild today, but it was in the 40s the last week. Storms are coming. Two weeks ago it was in the 90s. Yeah, it's unnatural, but I'd rather have the heat.

Joe doesn't know it yet, but my whole family's moving in with him just as soon as the snow flies.

Joe Moore said...

Mark, come on down! The more the merrier. There's nothing better than sitting around the pool in mid-January sipping margaritas while the temp plummets down into the 70's.

Julia, in South Florida, we know fall is on the way when the “snow birds” start showing up on I95 with their out-of-state license plates. :-)

G.M. Malliet said...

Everything is out of whack on the East Coast - trees either in bloom or dying from lack of water.

This has been the longest, most unrelenting summer I can recall, and I have been around a few summers. October was also my favorite month, but now I have to wait for November? It isn't natural - I'm with Al Gore on this one.

Felicia Donovan said...

Julia - Here in New Hampshire, we are experiencing an unusually vivid fall foliage season which the experts attribute to the warm temps. While I love the bright colors and crisp blue skies very much, I'd welcome torrential downpours for the next month since...my well has run dry.

I've spoken to well company after well company and they all say the same thing - they are overwhelmed with calls from customers experiencing the same conditions.

I have long been a proponent of conservation and while I'm grateful for the learning opportunity this situation presents for my family, I'd also be grateful for rain.

On the plus side, I'm finding all kinds of new muscles carrying buckets and bottles of water all around and have incorporated it into my daily workout. I'm even thinking about a new non-fiction book. Temporary working titles are "Drought and Do Ten," "What the Bucket?" or "Pail-lates." What do you think?

Did I say "send chocolate?" I meant "rain and lots of it."

Julia Buckley said...

Okay, these posts are actually making me panic a little more. What's up with all of the weird weather? Not to go all Shakespearian on you again, but in the tragedies of the Bard, odd weather was always a harbinger of disaster: the death of a king, the murder of an innocent, the downfall of a tyrant.

But Shakespeare had to put up with the plague and we don't, so I guess I should count my blessings?

Felicia, I had no idea you were dependent on well water! That's very cool, but it makes me wonder about your location. Are you out in the wilds?

Bill Cameron said...

Well, Julia, all I can say is welcome to human-induced global climate change. Hope it works out!

Julia Buckley said...

Thanks, Bill. :0

And I like the moody new photo. It's very Hemingway-after-the-hunting-trip.

Speaking of Hemingway, if any of you Inkspotters love his work, I live right down the street from the Hemingway Museum, as he was born and raised in my town. I can send you a postcard. :)

Keith Raffel said...

Julia, How hard can it be to write when you (judging from your photos) live in the garden spot of the Midwest?

Julia Buckley said...

Tee-hee. I have carefully cropped out all of the cement. :)