In lieu of madness, orderly seasonal transition

“This is the brink of fall,” a Southern friend once said in September. She spoke poetically.

I recall the shine in her eyes as she gazed into the steaming late summer Mississippi heat, the sweat beading her brow, and the lankiness of her hair. Knowing this, her statement, “This is the brink of fall,” was a prayer.

No one but Southerners, save those in Calcutta, knows what a muggy summer does to your body, your garden and your life.

Being on the “brink of fall” in the Northwest contains no prayer. We ooze from one season to another with only hope.

“We are on a mesa of fall,” is more appropriate although “mesa of fall,” has no ear. Possibly, “brink of fall,” has no ear either.

“Brink” implies that some poor unfortunate is standing on the edge of a deep crevasse. Beyond that point, all is irreparable.

We, on our mesa, move along on a level plain with summer legs still sprouting under shorts, tanned arms swinging from bare T-shirts, and sandals in excess.

Maple leaves mount on the street in late October and parkas appear. Socks are inside sandals for a change, and bare legs turn cold. After the rains come in November and dark descends before supper, we ask, “What happened to fall?”

Sometime in this mesa weather, we must pack our summer clothes and unpack winter togs. We put plastic cups over faucets, clean out gutters and make sure the furnace works.

All that outdoor stuff pales beside closet health. I offer a more accurate way to seasonal change.

For example, when retrieving the morning paper I change from my summer robe to walking with a robe and light sweater, I know I am on the brink of fall.

When I move to my down robe, I am on the brink of winter. And when I place a hood over my head and carry an umbrella, plus wear gloves, winter has arrived.

Here, I must bring up how Mother taught me the dress/weather connection.

“No white shoes after Labor Day,” she drilled into my head.

I must have thought I would be arrested on the spot for cultural impropriety if a white shoe touched my toes.

“Wear dark cottons in September.” Was the unspoken threat, “Or else?”

“Did you see her? She wore a pastel dress and white shoes on September 10?”

That was a topic of gossip at the A&P.

(I don’t recall when men’s seersucker suits gave way to woolen ones, but one day, they did.)

Confused over whether it was fall or late summer, I only had to gaze at my feet.

So my suggestion for the robe-weather criterion is not far off.

Oct. 1 is my designated day to first pack up bulky summer sweaters, shorts, pairs and pairs of sandals, straw hats, large summer pocketbooks and all those bare T-shirts. Only then do I unpack sweaters, boots, down coats, flannel sleepwear, wool socks and earmuffs with confidence.

The chore done, then closets will grow neat and order will reign.

If the populace will follow me in tidy storage, the city will run better, the election will go my way, and the paper will not have to headline: “Men and women go mad from clutter.”

I made that up, but the statement is a fitting end to a meandering report on brinks, mesas, white shoes, pastel dresses, the election, and madness.

Sally Robison is a Winslow artist and the author of “The Permanent Guest’s

Guide to Bainbridge Island.”

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