November

In early November there are two things that occur that I think should be eliminated. One is a throwback from days gone by. It is the switch from daylight saving time to standard time.

The first Saturday in November ends daylight saving time. Unless you live in Hawaii or Arizona, where DST is not followed, you need to turn your clocks back an hour in November, getting back the hour that you lost last March.

The truth is that switching back and forth is a total waste of time, messes with your internal clock and accomplishes absolutely nothing. According to popular myth, it saves energy. Not so, according to what I have read. Energy costs tend to go down in the summer because we use less lighting and we are not heating our homes. Daylight saving time has no purpose in our industrial, always on, technology-driven society.

There is certainly no good reason to do this today. If people want to take advantage of an extra hour of daylight, maybe they should just get up an hour earlier.

We reset our clocks during the summer to move an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening. Here’s an idea, move the whole world clock forward one hour and leave it alone.

The time to eliminate this dinosaur, this throwback to when we were an agrarian culture, is now.

But the only way we can change this is if Congress takes action. Unfortunately you will get old waiting for this to happen. Congress can’t seem to agree on many things. How can we expect them to handle an issue like eliminating daylight saving time, even though there is almost a universal support for its repeal?

The primary thing that drives me crazy (although some people will say it is just a short putt) is Christmas music in November. Every year it seems we start a little earlier, putting up the lights, the trees and blowup Santas. Before you call me a Grinch, I like Christmas music just as much as the next guy. Give me a good Burl Ives “Holly Jolly Christmas,” a Nat King Cole “chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” or José Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad,” but Lord help me I don’t need it on
November 1st. I gave my radio a quick scan the other day and found four stations broadcasting “All Christmas, all the time.”

I like the Christmas season; it is one of my favorite holidays. I love the eggnog, the much maligned fruit cake, the Salvation Army red kettles and bell ringers and the decorations. I enjoy the kindness that seems to pervade society at this time and the gathering of friends and family, but for the love of God, can we wait until the Thanksgiving turkey is out of the oven and the dishes are washed before we start celebrating Christmas?

I think that the stores must have paid to have some big, expensive study done that said by playing Christmas music in November, it encourages consumers to spend more money. The study probably said it increases impulse buying and therefore the stores’ bottom line, but sorry, it doesn’t work on me.

It has just the opposite effect on me. In fact, it persuades me to get in and get out as quickly as possible without any looking around. This makes me just want to get what I wanted and leave. It causes me to shop online so I don’t even have to enter a store. I now do more online shopping than in-store shopping. Give me free shipping and we are golden.

I got up early

I get up early almost every morning to see if anyone has published any of my work. My articles usually get published around 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning. It wasn’t yet dawn but the sky was beginning to get brighter. I grabbed a banana, a glass of vegetable juice and my laptop and headed for the back porch.

The air still had the nighttime crispness to it. The kind of freshness that you only get in the late summer/early fall. The birds hadn’t started their morning song yet but the crickets and frogs were going full tilt. I love hearing the crickets and frogs.

There were a few other sounds in my neighborhood, My a dog barking in the distance and the low quiet hum of traffic passing a few blocks away. The neighborhood was quiet until my neighbor started his car to go to work. Other than that it was fairly quiet and I was enjoying it. Our neighborhood is comparatively serene. A few of my neighbors are retired and they don’t have anywhere to go that early in the morning. I would say it is a sleepy little neighborhood.

 Another advantage to where I live is that you can’t get anywhere by driving through it. The only cars I see belong to residents and the people who are lost.

The light from the moon was augmented by the street light filtering thru the leaves of our maple tree.  Between the two sources, there was just enough light so I wouldn’t step on something. The leaves of the trees hadn’t started to turn yet, but I knew it would not be long before their stately mantle would be on the ground, being strewn about by the wind.

I watched a cat slink across my back yard, looking for a meal when it spotted me. It froze hoping I wouldn’t see it and stared at me, watching to see what I was going to do. When it decided I wasn’t a threat, it continued across my yard, under my fence and disappeared behind my neighbor’s house.

A cool breeze kissed my face and sounded the wind chimes I have on my back porch. Listening to the wind chimes is very soothing to me and we leave some of them out year round. Unfortunately, the gentle breeze brought the pungent odor of a skunk with it. The skunk wasn’t nearby so it was only a slight wisp of a smell though.

I’ve been trying not to listen to those people who are talking about the end of summer, trying to pretend they are wrong, that these long, lovely days will never end. But in the early mornings, I can smell, hear and feel fall coming.

It is still light out enough evenings to fool us all into thinking that we have more time. And my wife and I will delay dinner until 7 p.m., to take advantage of that time. Playing cards outside until dark, but then we have to move inside until bedtime. Gone are the nights sitting on our porch swing until 10 o’clock.

Very soon it’s going to be time to change the clocks. Finally the clock in my car will be right once again. I never did learn how to set that damned clock. How does the axiom go? Is it fall back or fall forward? We must have 12 to 15 clocks that will need resetting: vehicle clocks, alarm clocks, a clock radio, the clock on the stove, clock on our phone and one on the microwave. The list seems endless and that’s just downstairs. It’s an all-day job. Everything else resets itself.

As I think about it, I am retired with nothing to do, why do I need so many clocks? The only room in my house that doesn’t have a clock is my bathroom. I get up when I am awake, eat when I am hungry and go to bed when I am tired. But I digress.

These late summer days won’t last long, I know that. The older grandchildren have gone off to college and the younger ones will be back at school before long. They won’t be spending all day with us like they did over the summer, until the next school vacation.

The leaves will soon start turning a kaleidoscope of colors signifying the shorter days and longer nights. Soon, I’ll all be switching the position of the lawn mower and the snow blower in our garage.

But that’s all for later. Right now is a good time to put off whatever it is you wanted do inside until after dark, step outside and just smell the air. Soon we won’t be able to breathe the fresh air outdoors without bundling up against the cold.

So, step outside. Look at the trees, look at the sky, and enjoy the scents of late summer. Take advantage of the daylight and walk through a park if you can — or just walk around the block. Fire up the grill, cook the last few hot dogs of summer and eat your dinner outside.

But, as we all know, these days won’t last forever. Winter is coming, with its cold winds, snow, icy roads and slick sidewalks and then it will be time to put on our boots and snow tires. Norb is a freelance journalist from Lockport NY.

Loss of a tree

I contributed to global warming a tiny bit more than usual recently. When we moved in to our home over 40 years ago there were two maple trees and an ash tree that provided shade in the summer, but now they were showing their age. The maples had reached a height where I could no longer stop the branches from rubbing against my siding and roof when they blew in the wind, much like a kitten rubs against your legs, when they want to be pet. This was causing damage that was unavoidable and unacceptable to me. There was also an ash tree in my front yard that was wrapping it’s hands around the wires heading to my house, the power lines and the phone line. 

I had considered having some tree work done since about 2010 when I started noticing an increased amount of branches of all sizes in our yard every time we had a wind storm.

Originally, I called a tree guy just to have the offending limbs trimmed and the ash removed before they caused any more problems. It was not an easy decision, at first. When he arrived he looked over my trees and we sat down on my porch.

In a tone reminiscent of a doctor telling you your test results, he asked if I wanted the good news or the bad news first. I opted to hear the good news first. He said that the ash tree in my front yard was healthy and showed no evidence of the emerald ash borer beetle that was devastating hundreds of millions of trees in North America. He said he wouldn’t remove it but could trim it so if it was uprooted in a storm or died it would simply fall away from my house without taking my wires with it. He said he could also trim back the maple that was becoming overly friendly with my house and my new addition. So far so good.

The bad news was the sugar maple that was shading the majority of my house had seen better days and was rotting from the inside out. He said he could trim that one also but it was only a matter of time before it died completely and came crashing down, possibly into my house. Well, I had anticipated cutting one tree down and trimming two others just not the ones he suggested. So we agreed on a price and he scheduled the carnage for a later date.

As the maple tree’s last days loomed ahead of us, my wife and I were asking ourselves whether this was the right decision. Who really knew just how long this tree would stand, offering us shade and the neighborhood birds a place to live. This tree and the shade that it provided, was one of the things that first attracted us to this place. But, over 40 years later, it was dying off.

Early the morning of the bloodshed, after reading the day’s news and having breakfast, I walked over to the maple’s trunk. I gazed up through its branches and leaves one last time. I watched as the shadows of the leaves formed ever changing patterns on the side of my house and I sighed. How could something that moved this much be dying. And I hugged it. I actually became a tree hugger. I thanked the tree for all its service, patted the trunk and, as a single tear streamed down my face, turned and headed back into my house.

The tree guy and his crew arrived shortly after that to take care of business. It was interesting to watch how they removed the limbs over my house without dropping then on my roof. It was like a midair ballet.

Later that day, I went out to check the chainsaw’s progress, which is probably a strange way to refer to the end of a life. There were a few hollow parts in the upper branches but a section of the trunk was emptier than my own heart. They loaded up the wood (I’m sure they have a firewood business also) and hauled it off.

I was impressed that, when the tree was down, they ground out the stump, they raked up all the chips and filled the hole with topsoil. The topsoil was probably a better grade of dirt than on the rest of my yard.

 I am now surprised just how much light comes in thru my dining room window. Even at night the street lights shine in so much that I don’t need night lights anymore.

A recent study published in the journal Science stated that the Earth has enough open space to be able to plant more than one trillion trees. They said this is enough to capture some 800 billion tons of carbon dioxide. I am sure the loss of my one tree won’t make much of a difference in global warming but it sure has made a difference to me.