The First Front of Fall

by Amy Martin

Hints arose earlier in the day, high wispy clouds, thin in the stratosphere, the sign of cold weather, even though temps were in the 90s. Looking for persimmons late that afternoon a mile north of Osage Moon, a whipping wind smacks me in the face with leaves. This isn’t the slow southern swamp breeze of summer. This is a genuine norther, bearing not just humidity, but rain. Overhead a dark blue strata edges forward, the upper clouds sloping backward from its own wind.

I race back to Osage, beating it by just minutes, rousting Scooter with flush excitement: Fall is here! We hunker on the back porch as the front moves in. Winds blow with wildness, scaring the dogs who think the ritual of storm-watching is madness. They cower against the back door and watch us with suspicion.

The trees shake, shimmy and groan, bending limbs and shedding leaves. Grapefruit-sized light-green horse apples fall from the osages with loud thuds; we moan on what this would do to our real apple tree. Tall grasses in the meadow bend low and horizontal, giving no resistance to the storm. Mabel, the shaggy sheltie mix, peers off the porch, nose pointed to the north, long wooly hair flying behind her. Finally, after the long summer, is her season.

The front moves with intent, barging southward, looking sleek and streamlined, its own racing winds pushing the clouds backwards in a steep slope. A low spread of steel blue clouds soon obliterates the sky. Then suddenly it stalls, the clouds barely moving except for odd dark fragments dropping from the blue shelf. It seems to be making up its mind.

A break in the blue clouds teases open and reveals what sits atop them: epic billows of silver and white cumulous, shining in the sunlight and radiant with moisture. All at once the bottoms of the blue open up and the clouds let loose an inundation of rain. Months of dust and pollen wash from the air. In scattered patches of sunlight the water shimmers bright.

It pours rain for an hour. We watch the back end of the storm hustle away like the dust trail of pickup zipping down a white-rock road. The birds had lingered long past their time, waiting impatiently for migration cues. Catching a ride on the front’s tail wind, two great blue herons head south to warmer, livelier ponds. Soon the robins from Missouri will arrive, over-wintering in our relative balm.

October 8, 2007