Signs of the Season
Darkness falls at too early an hour this time of year.
I often join a late afternoon video chat with my mother and a sister in Chicago and sometimes another sister in Boston. Boston and Atlanta are both in the Eastern time zone but currently the sun sets there at about a quarter-past 4 p.m. while here around half-past 5 p.m. I try to avoid griping about the weather because the family up north has little sympathy for complaints about conditions down south.
Maybe it’s just me, but I find myself ready to call it a night earlier during daylight standard time. Gone for now are those soft summer nights when the sun sets closer to 9 p.m. and you can linger outdoors.
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The earlier dark, colder temperatures, and rain have been less than conducive for outdoor work. The yard is blanketed with fallen leaves and the garden box is soggy. The neighbors generally keep their lawns free of leaves, but about the time our kids stopped jumping into piles of leaves I stopped raking. The lawnmower is put away in a corner of the carport, surrounded by tomato cages, waiting for spring.
This was the strangest growing season I can recall. I was picking peppers and tomatoes in late November when, most years, I already would have pulled their roots from the ground. The blackberry canes, raspberry bushes and blueberry bushes sit dormant and in need of pruning. The plum tree behind the house has shed nearly all its leaves, as have the fig and persimmon in front. The monstrosity of a kiwi plant dropped its fruit several weeks ago and has exchanged its summer green for winter brown.
The dogs show little desire to spend time in the cold and damp, but in sunshine they’ll rest on the deck. Otherwise, they camp out in the living room, either on the couch, on a chair in need of reupholstering, or on dog beds in front of the windows. I either sequester in my office or occupy “my” chair in the living room.
I’ve written two dozen “From Where I Sit” columns this year. Some have been distinctly Jewish in their subject matter, others have touched on current events, and a fair number have been personal. Based on the comments I receive, the columns of a personal nature strike more of a chord with readers than the others.
These columns run in the range of 725 to 750 words, which requires me to pare down my thoughts and carefully choose my words. If I’m lucky, the words flow from my mind to my fingers unimpeded. Much of the time, though, writing this column resembles a wrestling match. It’s harder to edit out words than to write them in. Along the way, a lot of “little darlings,” as favored phrases are known, hit the cutting floor.
There is another noteworthy sign of the season.
Several days before the start of Chanukah, I made a “test batch” of 43 latkes — using six potatoes and three onions — for my wife’s office holiday party. By the time you read this, I will have made dozens more and the smell of potato and onion pancakes fried in peanut oil will have permeated the kitchen and adjacent rooms. And, as I do with charoset at Passover, I’ll ask, why don’t we eat these things the rest of the year. Then I’ll clean up the kitchen and remember why.
The pages of my 2023 calendar are being filled in. After many years, I have changed from one of those large desk-size calendars to a notebook style model. I’ve penciled in appointments and potential trips, along with concerts, theater, films, and the Atlanta United schedule.
Meanwhile, here are a handful of personal resolutions as a new year begins. This list for 2023 closely resembles that of 2022: Get that book published, travel, write on subjects of interest, eat healthier, and exercise more.
Let’s hope that the next three months bring no repeat of the March 1993 “storm of the century” blizzard or the January 2014 “Snowmaggedon” that paralyzed Atlanta and made the city the butt of jokes. I’ll try to avoid grousing about the weather on that afternoon video chat. When the wind howls, temperatures plummet to single digits and below, and snowfalls are measured in feet, the family up north will have little sympathy for whatever we endure.
Originally published at https://www.atlantajewishtimes.com on December 24, 2022.