This morning I turned on the heat. Welcome, fall.
The mountain is not golden yet, but we know that, too, is coming.
I try to wait until October before I flip the on switch of my heating system. Maybe it’s my Midwestern roots, or my desire to save a few bucks, but Oct. 1 or later just feels right. September still holds onto the glow and hope of summer, and with that the expectation of being warm from the sun, and then holding that heat inside ourselves.
When I was growing up, it was the old-fashioned radiator heat in our drafty house that kept the eight of us warm and safe. I remember the popping of those metal radiators that looked like tall, upright accordions. You could touch them for a second to see if they were on, and when I was little, helping my mom bleed them with a key seemed mysterious. The home of my good friends in Flagstaff uses that steam-heat system, and when I am at their house it takes me back to my childhood. In the winter, I feel the warmth of the radiator behind me as I sit at their dining-room table, sharing another meal. Pop, pop.
They have to wait for hours before their house warms up. Not me. I have a forced-air system. So it works quickly, which is a blessing when you wake up to 32 degrees outside. The system also has its drawbacks: the noise. Particularly for people visiting, and even for me in the autumn before I become lulled into the nighttime bouts of air, it can be alarming. I have awakened with a start at the sound like the whooshing of a freight train or the roar of an approaching hurricane.
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Fall means back to school, of course. After a year’s sabbatical, that translates into my being back in the classroom for the first time in many months, and also in a building with my colleagues. Having a year to do reporting, and to arrange travels, interviews and writing on my own schedule was delightful. Even though I chose the heavy subject of survivors of gun violence, I still felt blessed to have my time as my own.
Now I am going to meetings upon meetings, while trying to hold on to last year’s productivity and stability. Like many people in their workplaces, I find myself carefully stepping over landmines of the sometimes poisonous conflicts between personalities. (Not that I have never gone there myself. I plead guilty to sometimes overly “sharing” my opinions.)
This morning, I awoke thinking about the small bridges that are no longer. The ones at the downtown library and at Frances Short Pond.I miss those. I remember my young sons running back and forth on the library bridge, blowing off steam before we went into the library for some book time. And while the short wooden structure over the duck pond’s stream was not especially noteworthy, it offered a way to avoid jumping rock to rock over the low stream, and kept our feet dry.
It makes me wonder. If we are missing bridges at the workplace, is there a way to get across to the other person’s point of view, or meet midway? Much like the issue in our divided country, is there a method to reach one another and come to an understanding, if not a consensus? Can we smile — genuinely — in support of coworkers, even if their words and behavior are not ones we would choose? Can we find a way to move forward together, even if it requires some stone-hopping that leaves our sneakers damp?
I believe so. Meanwhile, at school it is my students who bring me the most warmth. Like the sun rising later in the October sky, another batch of youthful faces shining with a desire to learn fills me with hope. Hope for this generation that seems ready to turn on the heat.