Two weeks ago, I suddenly noticed something, which had been changing gradually for a long, long, time. My old faithful crocheted afghan, of my favorite “earth” colors, which I made back in 1978 or 1979, looked remarkably faded and worn. With colder weather, it is no longer as warm as it once was. When did that happen? I must’ve missed it, so long had affection endeared it to me. So, I (faithful still to my original color scheme) went to the craft store A. E. Moore and bought the colors over again, in copious enough quantities to re-make my afghan. That is, I replaced all the colors I could; one color had to be included in a darker shade, and the original afghan looked even more faded beside the new colors when I brought them home. Part of my time for the last two weeks has been spent re-making the blanket (as quickly as possible before true cold weather sets in).
But that’s not the only symptom that fall is here. The other is that my brother’s birthday was November 1st, and for his birthday gift, he requested that we all come up and help straighten out the shed and the barn, which involved burning vast quantities of old wood from various projects of ambitious intent from other years, of old craft projects, of old heaps and scraps of furniture originally set aside to be fixed. There was also setting out dumpsters full of old stuff to propitiate the querulous gods of autumn who bring the ruthless gods of winter and the fickle godling of spring in their train. Only summer’s goddess usually passes without question, and even she has some odd qualities in the weather patterns of late. And of course, being as we were in Vermont where the “free pile” tradition is alive and strong, all of the “still good, but no longer needed here” items were piled by the side of the road and left to others to give them a good home. True to tradition, we first celebrated the sacrifice with a riotous good time had at The Pizza Stone, a delicioso first experience for me, but one which others of my family had had before. We were in luck because it was a music night, and we got to hear a fine local band, to which all the children insisted on dancing and carrying on, even getting a couple of the willing adults involved. The brews were tall and cold, the pizzas some of the best our pizza-experienced family had tasted (and we all complicated the issue by joyously exchanging bites and slices back and forth across our super-large table), and the company tolerant and seemingly accepting of the great amount of noise we were making. (Of course, everyone else there was making a fair amount of happy noise too, so it’s likely we fit right in.) The only dilemma came along when each morning over the weekend we had (the first morning) to crawl out of bed with a morning head and get the work started and (the second morning) after the first day of hard work to get up (admittedly a little later this time) and get to work again. What do you call it when you burn wood, wood, wood, for hours on end in one small bonfire that has to be kept within a certain earthen circle in order to be safe with the local authorities? You call it something that takes up the time of three frolicking children tuned to sudden responsibilities hauling wood, with various adults supervising them and countermanding each other’s orders, and shouting responses back and forth in discussion, issuing new orders, and getting back themselves to what they were doing to generate all the wooden fragments that had to be hauled out, which was clearing not only wood but carpet bits and old bits of metal and other scraps and junk out of a shed and then the top part of a barn, and then the lower part of a barn, and then a garage (sorry, but the only way to give you an exhaustive list is to produce part of the exhaustion in embryo in my sentence structure). Finally, when all of the fun and games were over, we collapsed each in our various ways, eating, dozing, going out for a bit of an evening, getting last minute homework done, and (in my case) working a little more on the crocheted afghan of the first instance.
As I mentioned before in my post on Italo Calvino’s short story “The Adventure of a Traveler,” I will in the middle of November be going up to Canada for my doctoral graduation, and of course in the week after that event we will be having American Thanksgiving (for those of you who don’t know this, Canadians get to have their Thanksgiving in October). But before these other valuable and worthy experiences happen, there’s one more sign of autumn, one which moreover comes along just once every four years, and that is general Election Day, which is tomorrow.
And this is perhaps the time and the event about which we must be most vigilant in trying to adopt both change and entrenchment, and each in its proper way. When I say “change,” I don’t mean from man to man, but from expecting almost magical action to result from the election of one man, to seeing that it is in fact we the people who must help to do the work by keeping up with the voting records of the people we elect and making sure they really represent what we would ourselves at our best and most generous selves want to be represented as, as Americans. And I see this as the season to practice entrenchment, not entrenchment in our own worst habits of thought and worn-out routines of behavior, but entrenchment in our habits of strength and support for those who genuinely have our country’s welfare at heart. Though I’m sure each of us has an idea of which man may be the best to lead the United States in terms not only of domestic policies but of international relations, I feel that I would like to go on record as supporting President Obama in particular, because I believe he can get our country out of the financial crisis we have been in and back more nearly to life in the credit side of the ledger that we enjoyed when President Clinton was in office. This is more than having a difference of opinion about Republican-versus-Democrat, it is a matter of fact and public record that these men were and are pursuing policies that changed and are changing debit to credit. But nothing happens overnight; change takes time. Change takes introducing variations upon good evidence and encouraging entrenchment in practices that prove worthy over time. I believe President Obama has his finger more nearly on the pulse of the nation than his opponent does. As to his opponent, I would only say that (to continue my metaphor of medicine) rather than taking the pulse of the nation and attempting his utmost to come up with the correct cure for a country which wants to have a reputation as progressive, Governor Romney behaves (on the record, which is insulting to the people he pretends he wants to represent) like a snake oil salesman, willing to play on any fear, willing to sell any bill of goods, willing to contradict his own record time and time again, in order to sell, above all, himself. President Obama, who has been consistent in his plans and formulas, is a man who is above selling himself in that sense: President Obama promotes the health of the United States; Governor Romney promotes Romney.
For those of you who disagree with me, you are naturally free to vote with your conscience; I will be voting with mine, for President Obama. And regardless of whom you vote for, remember all those around you who may need a ride to the polls, who may be disinclined to vote because of recent troubles with the weather or with their own problems and difficulties, and try to help them out. And remember that if you feel inclined to offer a sandwich or a cup of coffee to those whom you help out, it might come better if offered entirely after the vote, since the days of buying votes aren’t out of the popular mythology, and people are desperate even today: make it easier for each man and woman to vote their own conscience, and let your help be offered freely, if you offer it. Let us all pray in whatever key or way that we as a country emerge whole from being cast into the fire of this election.