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Flipping the switch to autumn
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At 10:29 p.m. Monday, summer comes to an end.

That’s when the autumnal equinox takes place. It’s not exactly as if someone goes out and switches things from hot to cool. In fact, we are likely to have a few days of short-sleeve weather before Jack Frost comes to visit.

By the way, I’m speaking of the fictitious character named Jack Frost, not the local funeral home and cemetery owner. If he comes to visit, it might be a season-ender.

I love fall. I love when you need a sweater or jacket for an outdoor stroll. I like to see the leaves start to turn. I don’t particularly like to rake them or even blow them with a high-powered leaf blower, but watching them fall is almost poetic.

A few weeks ago, I was in Grand Rapids, Mich., for a meeting. On my way to the airport, I struck up a conversation with the cab driver, a man from India.

There was already a hint of autumnal crispness in the morning air in Grand Rapids. Someone had already flipped the nonexistent switch.

“Do you get much snow here,” I asked the cabbie.

“Oh, do we ever,” he said.

According to the records, Grand Rapids averages 75 inches of snow a year. It gets fresh snow on an average of 52 days. It is not unusual for it to get snow in October or April. But the snow gets down to business in December and January. You can sing “White Christmas” in Grand Rapids and not be dreaming.

“You see that sign,” the driver said, pointing to an airport sign on a slight hill. “You can’t see it when it snows.”

The thought of that much snow made me happy to see an airplane waiting for me at Gerald Ford Airport.

But I do like a little chill in the air. I like hot chocolate when it is almost therapeutic in its warmth.

When I was a kid, I used to love to jump into a pile of leaves. I saw a woman with a child who was about to jump into a pile of leaves. She was more concerned about his allergies and getting his clothes dirty.

Yes, I am now among the millions who have fall allergies. I don’t think I had any until I started living in an air-conditioned home.

We used to play outside until we were filthy. We used to make leaf piles and try to ride our bikes through them. If you made them too thick or deep, you would just fall into the pile.

By October, my husky double-knee jeans were beginning to show signs of wear. They were new just a month earlier. They were not worn out by sitting in front of a television or a game console. They were worn out by being a rough-and-tumble boy soaking in every minute of the new fall season outside.

The nonexistent switch is about to move into the “fall” position. That’s a sign it is safe to go outside. Go on and enjoy it.

If you’re my age, take your allergy pill and one of those anti-inflammatory pills before you go.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

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