Sturm und Drang
I always know that fall has finally arrived here in the Northern California mountains when my Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap turns from clear to cream-colored. Means the indoor temperature has dropped to 55 degrees – or below.
And indeed, that’s what I found when I got into a hot shower this morning.
You’d think I’d know from the signs everyone else in the country goes by: cooler temperatures, the leaves turning fall colors on the trees, flocks of Canada geese headed south, the bloody calendar.
But here in California, even at 3,200 feet above sea level, these things take a little longer to happen. I’ve known the temp to break over 95 degrees in mid-October. I don’t usually make my first woodstove fire until November, after waiting a few weeks to be sure that it’s going to be chilly enough all day that the heat from the stove won’t force us, sweating and swearing, out of the house by the mid-afternoon. Instead, Mr. Wren and I just break out the warmer clothes. Shirts with long sleeves, maybe sweatpants. My favorite warm, fuzzy socks on my feet, slipped snug into my wool slippers. Nice. See, since turning over the half-century-mark in my personal lifetime calendar, I get cold feet. Up ’til then, you could catch me barefooted or in sandals almost year-round.
But today, I know autumn is here. When I reached through the billows of steam in the shower for the Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Soap, it was that milky color, rather than the clear amber I’ve grown used to seeing since, oh, around March. This pleases me, though my fingers are freezing.
I choose my shower soap according to my mood. It was sweet, feminine and flowery this morning. Tomorrow, though, I might choose the peppermint soap, as my mood will still be sweet but sharp, with a bit of burn and zing tossed in.
Or is that Sturm und Drang? Certainly, in the world outside my little house, the words “storm and stress” are a good way to describe the general mood. In politics, the McCain/Palin campaign continues to rile the crowds that come to see them speak, using words against their opponents Obama and Biden that turn crowds into mindless mobs. That a man that was once seen as honorable would use these tactics in a desperate bid for power is not only disgusting, it’s frightening.
In other news, it seems that the American – and indeed the world’s – economy is collapsing. Everyday people like you and me aren’t just losing their homes or closing their eyes when the groceries are rung up now; they’re losing their life savings. They’re losing the money they hoped to retire on one day. Suddenly, next year’s vacation isn’t possible. Perhaps there will never be another vacation, period. Instead of looking forward to a time when we might finally relax and put our feet up after working hard for 45 years or more, we’ll just have to keep on working. And many of us won’t be able to. There might not be jobs. We might be physically unable. This is all frightening, too.
I know I have a Pollyanna-ish tendency to look for the bright side in everything. It’s part of my nature, something I just can’t seem to control. I stay calm when things turn chaotic. I look for the way over, under, or around obstacles. I compromise. I do my best to live by the Golden Rule, and I hope that the other people I encounter will do the same.
And I hope to be able to continue living that way, in spite of everything. I know we’ve got some hard – very hard – times ahead. We’ll have to change a lot about the way we live now. We’ll have to rethink what’s important to us, and try our best to reach a helping hand out to those who are even less fortunate than we are. All my life, I’ve been told that this is what Americans do. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. I believe we’ll do it again, which is why I’m planning to vote for Obama. His philosophy rings true to me, and if it’s idealistic, so be it.
We’ve seen what unfettered power, greed, and dispassion toward others brings to all of us. It seems autumn has arrived. And the winter will be long and hard. But like all people, all over the world, from time out of mind, we’ll set our hopes on the spring and summer. They’ll come. They always do.