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Mack Williams: Phoney Autumn

Mack Williams

The eight months following Germany’s invasion of Poland in World War II was called “The Phoney War,” because then, there was only one limited military action in the West by France against the German Saar region.

Like that “Phoney War” period, as I write it seems we’ve now entered a “Phoney Autumn,” Summer temperatures seeming to hang on with a firm grip. Indian Summer, or Native-American Summer, as you like it (not Shakespeare) has happened previously even in November. My hot-naturedness possibly adds some (but not all) to the current heat.

It seems the Earth’s axis’s Autumnal tilt is taking a little longer to “kick in” (astronomical and meteorological terminology). It’s also like playing a vinyl of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” on an old phonograph of the 1950s with 4 speeds: 78, 33 1/3, 45, and 16. Imagine, just before Vivaldi’s Summer music was at an end, changing the speed from 33 1/3 to 16, causing the Summer music to linger longer.

A more apt modern analogy might be a damaged CD of the Vivaldi piece, where the reading laser jumps back to Summer.

It’s a time of hot, slanting sunlight, mixed with hot, slanting shadows, even night’s “big shadow” seeming lukewarm.

My neighbor’s annual useless crop of Osage oranges is inevitably and inedibly sitting unclaimed, like last year’s “crop.” Those freshly fallen are a bright lime green, while the rotting ones have the same color Tweety Bird would have if he were nauseous. All in all, lying at a distance in his side yard, they resemble tennis balls lost in a match between players stricken with tunnel vision.

The Kudzu vines do seem to be ever-so-slightly relaxing their grip, even in city areas. I passed under one dried out “mummified” vine, having paused for the season in mid “tendrillic coil” just a few inches above my head, like one of those “plant monsters” just out of reach of me in an old 1950s sci-fi movie.

Another tendril held a beautiful little purple-blue flower, but it was its own bloom which it gripped, a Kudzu bloom! How beautiful Kudzu would be if it were always bearing such flowers en mass, the weight of even thousands of petals seeming to bring beauty to the figurative table (over, around, and underneath that “table”), nicer than just the mass of leaves and vines. In such case, of such a mass of blooms’ seasonal wane, we might reflect (in paraphrase): “When Kudzu last over the light pole bloomed,” (instead of “loomed”).

I always like to eat a hot, baked sweet potato with butter in Autumn; but in this present heat, its rising steam would only make the surrounding air even hotter.

In sunset’s light, the thinning leaves almost seem to be approaching yellow, but pause at that threshold to remain pale green just a little longer.

One big pink rose bush in someone’s yard reminded me of tiny, wild, blooming “ditch roses” seen years ago in the ditch in front of my boyhood home on the Old Concord Road. This large bush, not being periodically “ditch-drowned,” seemed to be thriving.

One man had set out his yard’s tree cuttings for the “plant garbage” pickup, seemingly deciding to have take over Autumn’s “trimming” himself.

When the leaves do finally fall, their annual “page” laid upon the ground, will only rest sacredly and undisturbedly in the forest, while elsewhere, being hacked to bits by mowers or scattered by blowers.

Dozens of spider webs spun between ivy leaves, and shining silver in the hot sun, looked hot to the touch, even for their builders. I remembered being at Holden Beach and Emerald Isle years ago and needing a pair of flip-flops for the hot sand, and imagined that if these webs were so blazing, and if such a thing existed, a spider would need four (pair, that is).

But I know that just as sure as wet paint will eventually dry (whether it be watched or not) the feel of Autumn will finally come.


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