Fall is in the Air

The seasons are about to change, and although I understood that when I returned to work for the fall quarter, my trees already losing leaves, I could finally feel it in the air yesterday morning. I was up early to go for a walk before an appointment with my MS nurse, Angela. It was incredibly windy and cool, cold even, and I regretted not wearing a jacket. Just the day before, it had been an uncomfortable 95 degrees, capturing the wild, swinging extremes of weather in Nebraska.

Angela and I talked about the weather before discussing how much more at risk I am for complicated infections because of my non-existent immune system. My B cells are well and truly dead, so the Ocrevus is doing its work, but that comes at the price of being less able to fight illness. This is a bit worrisome as the college where I work is constantly full of sick people, so I’m going to have to channel my inner Howard Hughes with the antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer, especially when the cold weather brings its usual barrage of colds and flu. Winter is coming with its sneezes, sniffles and coughs.

Although I later grew to appreciate her natural beauty, Nebraska was an utter disappointment compared to my childhood home in England, where I came to love the gray, rainy days, the rolling hills dotted with cows and sheep, the wild blackberries growing amid otherwise carefully tended gardens. As a child, it seemed like everything exciting was happening back in the US, though, so I looked forward to visiting our family in Rhode Island. One summer trip was full of sun, frozen lemonade, ice cream, cousins and backyard barbecues on brown lawns, my aunts’ and uncles’ pools our oases. When we returned to England, I remember so clearly being struck by how green the grass was next to the runway where we landed, vibrant emerald streaks against a gloomy sky. I felt the serene sense of being truly home for the first time.

When it was time to return to America, we moved to Nebraska, and the changes were not welcome. Much of what I dislike about the state, aside from the Husker fanaticism and the overly conservative politics, has to do with the weather. Spring and fall get blurred–indeed, almost erased–by winter and summer, and although I love snowy winters, summer is the worst. The heat is one thing, but the humidity is oppressive, crushing. The temperatures were in the 90s and 100s when we arrived in 1991, the humidity like nothing we’d ever known before, heavy and punishing. My parents bought their first house here, something that was only made possible by living frugally, so my father refused to turn the air conditioning on. I had never been so miserable; our furniture hadn’t yet arrived, so we sat sweating, melting near the windows, praying for the faintest whisper of wind, panting like overheated dogs. I remember resolving to leave this horrible state as soon as possible. There was no home here for me.

Although I didn’t forget that wretched summer or the ones that followed, Nebraska has a way of charming people if given enough time. Sometimes, it’s absolutely beautiful. Today was one of those days. It was in the mid-50s for my walk this morning, brilliantly sunny without being warm. The breeze held the promise of fall, quickening my step, the cattails and river grasses swaying as I moved along. Days like these are rare, so they feel like magic when we’re graced by them. When Alvaro got home from work in the afternoon, I took a break from preparing dinner and went for a second walk with him and Maggie, a slower one this time, accompanied by butterflies all the way around the water.

I would not have believed it as a teen, but Nebraska is my heart’s home now. There are days when it’s difficult to remember that, when the humidity takes hold of the throat, choking, or when the fierce winter wind cuts right through layers of carefully bundled clothing. But then there are days like this one, walking hand in hand with my husband, watching Maggie delight in the long grass before returning home to a nap for Alvaro, dinner preparation for me. When he woke, we drank glasses of petite verdot with a mushroom, shallot, tarragon and potato gratin alongside a butter lettuce salad with scallions and lemon vinaigrette.

Where is home if not in the pleasure of such sunny, unhurried days?

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Maggie never cooperates for photos.

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