As we sit in our chairs off the front porch, watching the leaves fall and the dogs tease us with tennis balls, my wife asks a simple almost-winter question: "Do we have enough wood?"
I tell her not to worry, of course. With reassuring woodpiles resting at the borders of several close-by paths, we're ready for glaciers from Roxboro.
She's not talking only about wood. During our first dozen years together, we lived in an un-insulated four-room house, heated only by the behemoth wood stove in the living room. Our fall and winter concerns included frozen pipes and the latest in electric blanket technology. Once we discovered making quilts and cutting wood in the spring, we were much better.
But with the first frost tiptoeing our way, I don't think she's talking history, infrastructure or even kindling at all. She's talking attitude: Are we ready for darker mornings, later sunrises and racing home from work to catch the sunset through the bare trees? Are we ready for refrigerator-posted chore lists that include potholes in the driveway, frozen water in the chicken coop and weekend calls from the kids asking us to send them their scarves and socks?
No more bare feet out the front door. No more pulling on a T-shirt and any pair of shorts. Instead, we'll have rows and piles of muddy boots by the back door.
Are we ready to clean the wood stove, the chimney and hearth, to close tightly the windows that have let in such invigorating breezes these past few weeks? Are we ready to get out all the layers? Are we ready for the power to go out?
And how's our supply of AA batteries and flashlights? Candle and matches? Remember the last time...
It's an entirely new system into which we're transitioning. We've been skipping fancy-free through an amazing Carolina fall. Soon, we'll be head-down, one foot in front of the other, waiting for clear skies and daffodils. Can we handle the changes? Are we ready for "Someone should get up and let the dogs in, it's too cold for them out there"? Are we ready for morning mantras to the defrost deities?
There will be no more random adventures out the back door seeking fresh tomatoes for mammoth summer sandwiches or just-ripe blueberries for breakfast. I'll need to find that matching glove and prepare myself for the old car window that doesn't close all the way and the leaf rake that has a splintered handle. Are we ready for whispered late-night conversations about clogged gutters and roof debris?
Of course, maybe I'm over-thinking all this. My father was a psychology professor, and I was a psych major. Maybe she was just asking if we have enough wood?