It was a beautiful day with puffy white clouds against a bright, blue sky.


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Or perhaps an overcast day, with clouds threatening a storm that may or may not materialize.


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You can’t have a beautiful sunset or sunrise without clouds because it is the clouds which give a the rays of light color, a palette.


And sometimes, the blue sky is unbroken … not a cloud in the sky.



We shouldn’t have been surprised because it happens every year, pretty much at the same time. Middle of November, after a long period of rather warm weather, one day the temperature drops and suddenly, you feel that first bite of winter.


I remember one year, more than 20 years ago, it was November 18th. Garry and I had gone in short sleeves and no jackets to a local dive for lunch. We were living on Beacon Hill and given the perils of alternate side of the street parking, we had walked the mile.


We were there about two hours. It had been around 70 degrees when we arrived at the Bulfinch. When we emerged, the temperature was about 40 degrees and the wind was whipping around the tall building. We ran home, not stopping until the door was closed firmly behind us.


This morning, when we got up, it was warm. Not 70, but mid sixties. Overcast and a bit blowy. When a few hours later we left to drive to Milford to pick up some antibiotics for Bishop, it was still warm. I noticed it was a bit chilly when we arrived at the veterinary office at 12:30. Less than an hour later, we stopped at the grocery store. It was cold. Not cooler. Cold. Maybe 50 degrees with a brisk breeze snapping the naked trees. The sky was bright blue with a few high cirrus clouds.


The cold had come. Other shoppers were hugging themselves, still dressed in short sleeves, unprepared for the precipitous temperature drop. We had jackets on, but it was definitely time for the next level of outerwear.

Trees are bare. A few die-hard shrubs are hanging on to their leaves, but otherwise, it’s the tail-end of autumn when the world pauses, catching its breath. Feeling the first chill fingers of winter.


A good time for the casting of sharp shadows across roads and parking lots. A good time to lay in supplies for the season to come.


Monthly Photo Challenge: The Changing Seasons 11

Last month was full-bore autumn. Bright trees. Yellow, orange, scarlet, bronze. And yet … and yet …


For the past few days, the leaves have been coming off the trees in a storm.


The ground is covered with oak, maple, sassafras, birch. More than ankle-deep.


The macadam is slippery with leaves. It’s almost like ice. Before there is real ice, we have to clear the driveway and backyard. Winter is close.


Not here, not yet. It’s still warm inside and outside. So warm I turned the heat off. November it may be, but it’s short-sleeved and shorts weather.

Tomorrow, it’s supposed to drop down … into the fifties. Maybe low sixties.


For November in New England, this is not cold. Barely cool.


Maybe winter will just take a pass this year and not show up at the party. I could live with that.


Cardinal Guzman, the host of this challenge, has gorgeous galleries, so please go look! 


Now, we are definitely ready for our closeup!

We’ve been agonizing about this for months especially since the “new” car has been having problems. We bought our PT Cruiser in 2007. Finished paying for it a year and a half ago. Been luxuriating since then in not having a car payment.



But each winter, when our driveway becomes the bunny slope of our personal ski resort — which would be more fun if either of us were ski bunnies — the car won’t get us up the driveway. Not even when there’s just a little bit of snow, much less a big one or a blizzard.


With tonight predicted to be the first hard freeze of the year and winter lurking in the background, we bought a car. Not a brand new one.

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The price of new cars has gone way above our pay grade, but we got a newer car. With four-wheel drive.

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We spent most of the day at the dealer … which is why I was missing pretty much all day. We were talking. Negotiating. Then signing papers, talking to the insurance agent, signing more papers. Then, more papers … and then … it was ours.

It’s a 2012 Jeep Patriot. Red. Cute. Bob Mielke, who now lives here, had the wit to bring a camera when they delivered the car. Yes, they delivered the car and drove away the old one. Here are Bob’s pictures.

Blow ye north wind. We have a car that will make it up and out of the driveway, even after the snow flies. We will need to pay for it, of course, but life carries a price tag … and we needed a car.


As I sat in the living room, baseball playoffs on the screen, I looked outside. Today is the fifth anniversary of my bilateral mastectomy. Which means five years officially cancer free.

Do I know for sure I’m cancer free? Of course not. No one knows that, not really. It does mean that I have had no symptoms, no signs. Nothing that makes that red light start flashing.


As part of this unofficial celebration, my granddaughter gave me a hair cut. Actually, I got several hairs cut. My hair has been falling out by the handful, probably the anemia and vitamin deficiencies catching up with me.


Having mid-back long hair wasn’t helping. While I try to get my levels back, it turns out the hair looks pretty good.


I am alive and with just a little bit of luck, I will stay that way for a good many years to come.

Meanwhile, the leaves are finally changing. For real.

The sun was low in the sky, just before sunset. It’s a particularly beautiful time of the day and especially beautiful this time of year. The sun is more golden in October … and today, the leaves got serious about autumn. It was only after the rain — last week — that color began to show in our trees.

It isn’t our best year, but it’s improving. I think it’ll be good, if not great. This is what you see from out my front door.


It Feels Like Football, Rich Paschall

While many consider the Labor Day weekend (which includes the first Monday of September) to be the beginning of Fall, others think of it as the last gasp of summer.  I prefer to think of it along the lines of the later.  That was much easier this year as that three-day stretch was among the hottest days we have had here in the Midwest all year.

Rushing the seasons is not on my list of things to do.  In fact, in a great upper Midwest tradition, I prefer to hang on to summer as long as possible.  After all, the season here is not long enough as it is.  Anyone who has been freezing in the upper deck of Wrigley Field in mid June will understand this completely.  We need our summer.

Those walking down the avenue in October and finding people in shorts and flip-flops will realize our desperate desire for a longer season of warmth.  We do not give up on the idea until the snow flies, which sometimes happens before Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday in November).  You have celebrated Thanksgiving in the snow, haven’t you?  No?  You live too far south.

Let the autumn come as it should, I guess, with the autumnal equinox (or the vernal equinox for you Latin scholars). This is the time when the sun appears directly overhead at the equator in its trip southward.  You know the equator, it is that line around the center of your globe.  You do have a globe, don’t you?

Photo Credit: Bill Paulino

Photo Credit: Bill Paulino

The sun is at it furthest point north on the first day of summer.  From there it is all downhill, or southward anyway.  When it crosses the centerline, this year on the 23rd of September, we reach autumn while the southern half of the earth begins the Springtime.  It is a unique astrological story that has the sun seem to move north to south and then back again when the sun really does not moves at all.  It just stays in one spot and burns people where its rays are strongest.  I would attempt to explain that apparent movement of the sun to you, but I will leave that to your astronomy professor.  You do have an astronomy professor, don’t you?  No, I do not mean your astrologist.

Each season has taken on a unique feel to me.  Winter is our indoor season, from the holidays to the spring.  We watch sports, read books and when the need arises, we shovel snow.  There are plenty of indoor activities to take up the time, whether you are a “homebody” or someone who likes to get out and enjoy your sports and entertainment away from home.

Spring feels like renewal.  It burst with a new energy that the return of our greenery brings.  Getting out and cleaning up the yard and “organizing the garden” is a joyous ritual.  I say organizing the garden because it has a life of its own.  I plant very little, but rather move things around and pull up the unwanted visitors (weeds).  Some “volunteer” plants appear in such numbers that some must be asked to leave to make room for the others.

Summer feels like baseball.  If you were in a city with two major league teams and surrounded by a few minor league teams within a short drive, you would understand this completely.  We long for the days when we can attend a baseball game and not have to wear a jacket (or winter coat).  We watch baseball at home, at sports bars and restaurants, at various social events.  Yes, it is still the national pastime.

Autumn feels like football. It is not because the National Football League is back in action.  For me, it is something more than that.  For decades it meant that it was time to get out the football and go to the park.  For a few years as a kid it was tackle football in a league, but for decades it was pick up games with friends in the park.  These were touch games rather than tackle, although our exuberance may have made the touching a little more “enthusiastic” some weeks.  I loved this feeling more than the others.  When I walk outside, feel the autumn air and see the leaves change color, and later fall to earth, I think of football.

What does the autumn “feel” like to you?  Does the change of season have a special feeling to you?  Does the Fall  weather invoke anything inside your memory banks?  Comment below, then pump up the football and gather up the gang for a game of two hand tag in the park.


I live in the Blackstone Valley where no one tells you nothing. When weather people stand in the studio and do their predicting, they position themselves so you can see the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Except where we live because that’s where they stand.


I asked our friend, the trustworthy meteorologist (there is one and he is it) about this. He said, “Well, we have to stand somewhere.” But on his next broadcast, he moved aside for a few seconds so that I could see the map. Thanks!

When anyone mentions the valley at all, it’s Worcester. The rest of our towns don’t exist. I have learned to read weather maps because I’m not going to get information any other way. Dinosaurs could be roaming the Valley, and no one would notice unless one of them ate a tourist.


Now that we’re turning the corner to warm weather, I can take a deep breath and relax. It’s a quiet weather period, usually.

The past couple of months gave us a big dose of weather frenzy. Most of it was on the money, unlike previous winters when the frenzy exceeded reality by 100%, give or take a few points. I was numb from the hyperbole of previous years, so I ignored the warnings. When the first, huge blizzard hit at the end of January, we were unprepared. I hadn’t even bought extra groceries.


The frenzy isn’t harmless.

Weather sells. It pulls in viewers. When hurricanes or blizzards threaten, people who normally don’t watch the news tune in. Higher ratings, lots of teasers.

“Seven feet of snow on the way!! Will you be buried tomorrow? Story at 11!” It’s money in the bank. Doom is a perennial best-seller.


TV stations like to whip everyone into a frenzy. It’s good business. Weather predictions don’t carry issues of journalistic responsibility. No one can call you to task for being wrong because, after all, it’s the weather.

The frenzy is not harmless. Every weather event is presented as if it’s the end of the world. It’s impossible to figure out if this next thing is serious or more of the same.

Should we lay in supplies? Ignore it? Plan to evacuate? Fill all the water containers? Cancel travel plans? Make travel plans? Head for public shelters?


Hysteria is exhausting and worse, it’s numbing. Some of us worry about the possibility of weeks without electricity. Telling us our world is ending is upsetting if you believe it. It is even more dangerous if it’s serious, and we don’t believe it.

They shouldn’t say that stuff unless it’s true. Or might be true. At the least, it’s rude to scare us to death, and then say “Sorry folks.”

You can’t unring the bell. When the real deal occurs — as it did this winter — we don’t listen. Weather forecasting may not be legally subject to standards or accuracy, but maintaining credibility might be worthwhile. I’m just saying, you know?