My favorite season

I realized yesterday that autumn is truly here. My heart rejoices to think of the warm days and crisp nights ahead, when Mother Nature puts on a one-woman fashion show just for us.

This realization came as I was driving from Iowa City to West Branch on the twisty, nearly deserted Local Road (excuse me, Hoover Highway). The sun was low on the horizon behind me, and something about the quality of the light made everything seem extra sharp — as if someone had given the world’s focus ring a twist. The gently rolling hills looked like rumpled blankets on an unmade bed. The sun lit up trees, fields of corn and soybeans, and farmhouses: infinite shades of green and gold, russet red and shining white, all against a backdrop of exquisite blue.

I like to say that Iowa is the weather armpit of the universe. We have the worst of two worlds — horridly hot, humid summers and bitterly cold, snowy winters. Spring is no relief: You never know when one last snowstorm will blow through to kill all the brave little daffodils and tulips, and the brief teases of sweet warmth are inevitably chased away by fierce thunderstorms and tornado warnings. By the time the threat of snow is well and truly gone, it’s already 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity.

But autumn … ah, autumn is the reward Iowans are given for surviving tornado warnings and brutally humid days when the air seems so thick it’s hard to breathe. Autumn is the natural world’s bouquet of roses and sheepish smile as it asks our forgiveness for its repeated transgressions. “Hey, baby, these are for you. You know I’m sorry, baby. I never meant to treat you so bad. I’ll be good to you from now on, baby, I promise.” Sure, it’s all a big lie (hey, when isn’t it?), but it’s a beautiful lie. I fall for it every time.

And here I go again …