These past few days I’ve noticed a cool, crisp bite in the morning air. Tomatoes ripen on fast-withering vines. Afternoons grow searingly hot, but. . .fall is on the way.


When I remember that I am “of a certain age” I resent the coming fall. I take it personally and metaphorically. Yes, I am in (the early part of!) middle age but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to fade with the foliage. I’ve got things to do, people to see, life to live! I chafe for the freedom to explore the new world once the pandemic is under control, as if I were a person of one score instead of three.


Fall will come regardless of my feelings. Getting upset about it is a silly waste of time. If I could be doing instead of ruminating . . . hold on a second while I ruminate some more. I used to like the fall. But why?


That’s easy. Fall is back to school time.


Hi, Lily. I’m glad you’re here to help me figure this out. But- -back to school. That’s not so easy these days. Everyone’s trying to figure out if and how schools can reopen safely. If you think about it, schools have been the anchor of the way we live. It’s where kids go to learn, but it’s also where kids are during the day when their parents are working. And it’s where teachers and administrators and support staff work. All of these people need to stay healthy and avoid contracting COVID-19. How do we puzzle out the jigsaw of what “back to school” means this fall?


Maybe it will mostly be online learning? That seems safest to me.

And they’ll still give kids who need them lunches, right?


That’s what I’d guess, 9. I’m also guessing that this fall we’ll see the next step in re-imagining schools as they’ll be in the future. I don’t think they’ll go back to the way we remember them.


For instance, if we don’t go back to an in-person classroom, no one will be shopping for new first day of school clothes.

Good! I hate that part. Everything in the Chubby section is ugly and boring. Everything’s brown or navy or gray. I get mad when the lady at Penny’s says, “This dress is very slimming.” It’s just- -gross!

I remember that feeling, 9. Lily has more options than we did, especially since a Juniors shop opened in town.


And while I can sympathize with you, 9, I was looking forward to getting something cute and new. It makes me feel special that first day back.


We’ll work on that Lily. Clothes are the easy part. But- –


We won’t get to see our friends.


Afraid not, 9, and we haven’t seen much of them since winter. We’ve done some video calls and I’m sure we’ll do some more, but- –


It’s just not the same.


No, it’s not. But it’s what we have for now.


What I liked about going back to school, all the way through college, was starting new classes and anticipating new projects.


If Lily gets new clothes can I get a new lunchbox?


I’ve been thinking about that, 9. When I was your age I really wanted a “Bewitched” lunchbox.


I love that show!


         It debuted when we were 4 years old, but they stopped making it a couple of years ago.




You can still find the lunchbox, or at least reproductions of it, online. They’re selling them online. The lowest price I could find was $25:.

$25? That’s allowance for practically a whole year!


Only about 3 months’ worth, 9. We got a raise a while back.


I’ll admit it’s a pretty cute lunchbox, a cartoon of Samantha Stevens in her witch’s hat, riding her broom above the city skyline. But since we’re destined to, seemingly forever, have lunch at home I’m not sure about spending that kind of money. It doesn’t even come with a thermos!


What I’m thinking is, fall will be more fun if we start our own school, here, at home. It’s a chance to carve out an hour or two each day to learn about something we wouldn’t otherwise make time for. Like Spanish. Starting the day after Labor Day- –




On weekdays I plan to sit down with “Spanish Made Simple” and join the imaginary Señor Adams in his pursuit of conversational Spanish. I also want to study astronomy. We can learn about what’s in the night sky in the fall and have fun making observations when it gets dark way too early.

Fall means back to school- -and back yard astronomy!

Like we’ve been doing all week at 3 AM, looking for the Perseid meteor shower?


Something like that, Lily, though I hope we can find some things to observe at a more convenient hour. Then I want to learn about cemetery iconography.




Iconography, 9. It means visual images and symbols used in a work of art or the study or interpretation of these. We’ll be studying symbols carved on tombstones that tell something about the person or persons buried there.

Fall- -back to school means new notebooks! Leopards on a black background add mystery to the subject of cemetery iconography. . .

Do we get to go when it’s dark?

I don’t want to go after dark!


For purposes of examination it will be easier to see things in daylight. We have ancestors buried in three nearby cemeteries. We’ll take a look at their markers as well as some very fancy ones at Mountain View Cemetery in Walla Walla.


Where you and your friend walk three times a week at 6 AM?

Uhm, these days it’s kind of dark at 6 AM.


Don’t worry, 9, we’ll start going later in the day when the weather cools off. The last subject I plan to study this fall: how to grow blueberries.


Good idea. The bushes in our garden are pretty runty.

Fall- -the perfect time to amend the soil for new blueberries. Clearly we have much to learn. . .

I know, and I’ve been working with them for years! The plan is to find out as much as I can about making blueberries thrive. So far I’ve learned that they need acid soil pH and that at least two varieties should be planted for purposes of pollination. It’s in my head to clear out the south bed and order a yard of peat moss to incorporate into the soil- –


That sounds like a lot of work.


We’ll call it P. E. That makes a nice, balanced curriculum.


Whew. For a minute there I thought we’d have time on our hands.


For extra credit, Lily, you can teach a seminar in sarcasm.


In case you’re wondering, yes, I really do plan to follow through on all of this. To cement my commitment, I’ve purchased three flashy new notebooks for Spanish, Astronomy and Cemetery Iconography. Project Blueberry will be documented in my regular garden journal.


Also, I’ve got my thinking cap pointed toward doing what I can to help our local schools this fall, whether they reopen or continue with remote learning. It seems to me that all of us are needed to shape the future of post-pandemic education. You’re never too old to start!

Pin It on Pinterest