Fall is here. It’s my favorite time of the year, even though I wistfully hold on to each descending ray of golden sunshine as if my very soul were slipping away. Sunset rudely interrupts my outdoor activities several minutes earlier with each passing day, and the first cool fingers of Canadian air have tentatively reached down into Illinois, poking at us.
Late September is a good time for taking stock of summer accomplishments. Not the kind that can be hung in a frame on the wall of one’s office, but the kind of experiences that return with clarity throughout the rest of our lives, when we need reminders of what’s important and good and true. In a four-season climate, where the weather often determines your activities, life settles into certain rhythms. In the fall, the contents of my closets rotate. Batteries in the smoke detectors get changed. The snow shovel gets hung more prominently in the garage. But the change with the most personal impact is one not many people appreciate. Renting the local flight school’s Piper Cub is a seasonal treat, and with the arrival of cool evening air, the Cub’s days are numbered. Soon, it will be stored away until the spring. Oh, sure, my various Cub-owning friends will bravely persist, some even fitting snow skis to their planes when the conditions are right. But my solo opportunities to fly low across the cornfields, examining the land and the lives of those below, are once again dwindling.
I went up for an hour yesterday, in the soft, smooth light of sunset. Like a man saying goodbye to an unrequited love, I tried to soak in every sensation and color, attempting to save it all someplace for the long winter ahead. I’ll get perhaps one or two more of these flights before the Cub will take a well-deserved slumber.
It’s been said that we are lucky to experience disappointments and sadness with our successes and euphoria, lest we fail to appreciate what we have. I suppose if I flew a Cub every day, I might not feel the same mind-altering sense of joy every time my tires lift off the grass. So perhaps an imposed winter sequestration is healthy. In the mean time, I’ll count the days until March.