It’s funny how much my…

It's funny how much my mood is ruled by weather. There are days when I think we should have hunted harder for that Bay Area pair of jobs, or that we should have taken the Oxford job when it was offered. Those days are motivated pretty much solely by the weather. As much as I love Chicago (and I really, really do), I cannot deny that often, our weather just sucks. Yes, it keeps our housing prices halfway reasonable, but sometimes, that feels like poor recompense. The winters aren't as cold as they used to be, but they're still long -- close to six months instead of the three that I grew up with in New England. Spring and fall are enchanting but so brief -- four to six weeks, most years. And summer is hot and long and humid, so that I end up wanting to take three showers a day, and I crank the AC up high to make it possible for me to think. My brain just shuts down when it gets too hot, and all I want to do is sleep.

We do have one benefit as academics -- in theory, our summers are off. This year, we were moving, and short of money, so I took on some extra teaching to earn cash. There will be other years like that. But I'm hopeful that we'll also have summers when we do a housing exchange with someone in another country (someone who likes 90-100 and humid), and we can take the kids and escape to somewhere interesting and more temperate. If nothing else, go visit Kevin's sister in the Bay Area for a month. (Would you want your sibling and his family to come land on you every summer for a month? Plus side: free childcare for your two small children; also, cousinly playmates. Minus side: lots of people in the house.)

This morning feels like the end of summer, the start of fall. It's 70 degrees now, at 6:30, which is a welcome change from what it's been. Tomorrow will get up to 85, but the forecast after that is looking more pleasant; highs between 75-80 or so, which is pretty close to perfect from my point of view. We're entering one of Chicago's lovelier seasons, when the people can breathe again, the plants revive, and the leaves change color. In front of my house is a hundred-year-old burning bush which has miraculously survived the renovation process; it's ten feet tall, and soon, it will burst into red flame.

I want to spend as much time as I can in the garden in the next two months. Kirsten got me a book for my birthday, Allen Lacy's The Garden in Autumn, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It's poetic in style -- he refers to autumn as the "season of flame and fire and incandescence". But it's also full of interesting ideas, of which perhaps the most revolutionary to me was his argument that N. American gardeners neglect autumn because have been brainwashed (my words, not his) by a heritage of British gardening. We dream of English gardens, and because autumn in England is cold and grey and moldy, we forget that autumn in our own environs can be crisp and sunny and bright. A time when a fresh glory of leaves and flowers can explode.

It may be some years before I can afford to fill my garden with perennials that take advantage of autumn, but even if autumn is a brief season in Chicago, I plan to enjoy this one to the utmost.

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