GENERATIONS: Sue Bruns: Dreary fall leads to 'wake me up in the spring'
Autumn teased me with memories of Indian summer days, sun catching the scarlets, rusts, and golds of maple, oak, and poplar and cloudless skies warming a sweatshirt-clad back to just the right comfort zone. One fall, when the kids were still in grade school, Gary came home with a 1986 Winnebago. The one previous owner had taken good care of it. The camper had been to Alaska and back, among other places.
It was ideal for the four of us—as long as two of us could fit in the child-sized beds created when the front seats were turned around and aligned with the center bench seat. The timing was perfect because it happened to be one of those remarkable years when summer lingered into September, October and even November. If there was a rainy, cold day, it happened at midweek when all of us were working or in school. Every Friday afternoon, we boarded the camper and headed for a Minnesota campground we hadn't already visited.
Now that we're retired and don't have to plan around work or school schedules, it doesn't matter which days of the week the weather cooperates. In fact, midweek is preferred. So, after two midweek Minnesota mini-vacations this summer, I was hoping to get away this fall. We could revisit some of our favorite camping spots, bike some trails we haven't yet tried, or even venture into Wisconsin for fall colors, South Dakota for autumn in the Badlands or Iowa to bike.
Unfortunately, the weather had something else in mind. Day after day brought rain, cold, cloud cover and wind. Would this autumn disappoint like last year's, when cold days kicked end-of-season yard and garden work farther down the road until the relentless early winter temps froze the ground before I could dig up my dahlia bulbs or mow the lawn one last time? The deer fed on the Chinese evergreens before I could wrap them in burlap. Dead leaves on the daylilies went untrimmed, and throughout the winter, reminders of incomplete garden tasks poked through the snow cover.
After days of damp and cold, a soggy snow, and winds that ripped still-green leaves from their stems, the sun broke through, and we attacked the list of un-done tasks. A few more days of moderate temps, dry air and sunshine and we could rest easy—maybe get away, but the pattern of dreary days with only an occasional glimpse of sun and relief from rain or wind continued.
There are numerous indoor tasks that I promise myself I will do when strings of sunless days dampen my spirits, and short dog walks are the only venturing out I do, but the lack of sun was depressing. I saw it on my own face and on the faces of everyone I met in the grocery store parking lot or outside a local restaurant. People weren't even talking about the weather. What was there to say? Instead, we clutched the collars of our jackets, made meaningful non-verbal eye contact that said, "I've had about enough of this," put down our heads and scuttled into a cold rain.
The abbreviation SAD for seasonal affective disorder is all too appropriate. Was that what was happening to me—and to almost everyone I knew? It was only the first week of October. Surely we were in for at least a week of unseasonably warm weather before we resigned ourselves to months of bleak winter. I Googled SAD. Symptoms, the article said, included "feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day; losing interest in activities you once enjoyed; having low energy; having problems with sleeping; feeling sluggish or agitated; having difficulty concentrating." I wasn't experiencing thoughts of suicide, but several of the other symptoms sounded familiar.
Not having to get up in the morning for work sometimes led to staying up too late, not sleeping well, and not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. "Wake me up in the spring," I told Gary one morning. "I'm going into hibernation."
But instead, he turned on the TV in the bedroom and pushed 3-0-1 for the weather channel. I opened one eye. The forecast promised temps in the mid- to upper 50s. He raised the blinds and let the unfamiliar sun peek in. That was all it took. My bout of SAD was over for now. I pulled on old jeans and a flannel shirt, made a quick cup of coffee, and stepped outside to tackle the fall tasks on my list. Maybe, once the tasks were completed, and if the sun stayed longer than the weather channel predicted, we could even slip away for a short fall vacation.