Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Autumn/Fall (08/27/09)
TITLE: Pretending Doesn't Help
By Deborah Engle
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Every year, the relentless heat of summer gradually gives way to the cooler days of fall. The animal kingdom responds by intensifying their preparations for winter. The plant kingdom does itself proud, producing a grand finale of inspiring color. Me? I reluctantly become aware of a persistent pressure in my face and a fullness in my ears, precursors of what lies ahead. The glorious season of autumn, for me, is also sinus and allergy season. My lymphocytes have become over-achievers, producing legions of antibodies and histamines that I don’t want or need. The only thing they accomplish is to make me miserable. All their frantic activity drains me of energy, and I drag myself through each day.
At first, I pretend nothing is wrong. The glories of fall captivate me, and my senses awaken whenever I step outside. Bright sunshine and deep blue skies illuminate the puffy clouds scuttling by. A cool breeze, just a hint of the power that moves them, refreshes me as I watch the soothing site. Unfortunately, my itchy, watery eyes can’t tolerate this. Inflamed eyes, sensitized by hay fever, really can’t do a lot of cloud watching. The glare, you know.
Wild flowers and weeds are played out, but have produced heavy seed heads, assuring their survival for another year. Now, the pollen-laden air infiltrates my nasal passages, initiating sudden onslaughts of sneezing. Messy business, this, and I head to the store to stock up on tissues. As the weeks pass, cool, crisp air settles in, but my inclination to inhale deeply must be stifled. Post-nasal drip makes for an irritated throat. My voice comes and goes unpredictably, and even trying to have a conversation brings on a fit of coughing so extreme it leaves me gagging. This impresses me enough to send me back to the store for antihistamines.
Weariness keeps me indoors, but life goes on for the rest of the world. Squirrels scamper about on daily scavenger hunts, filling their cheeks with provisions to store away for the coming months. Birds feed voraciously, building their strength for the rigid physical demands ahead. Hardy mums and late fall crops of pumpkin and squash benefit from the rains of late September. Their colors explode against the deep green grass and the rich brown soil. My head, too, feels as if it will explode with every passing weather system.
Day by day, autumn progresses. Rabbits and deer fill out as they graze continuously, and their coats grow thick as the temperatures drop. My artist’s soul eagerly anticipates rich scarlets, russets and golds, and by October the leaves have turned from a monotone pallet of greens, to a multihued display of spectacular colors. It lures me. It calls to me, and I cannot resist. I briefly emerge from my sanctuary, wishing I could absorb it all, for I know it is a fleeting masterpiece.
The welcome rain has fortified the trees against the coming winter, but now combines with the blustery wind to strip the foliage from the branches. The colorful leaves, which were once so appealing, now deteriorate into soggy mounds-a delightful breeding ground for mold. An occasional sunny day compels me to venture forth with my rake, but it isn’t long before I feel myself deteriorating. Unseen mold spores are working their way into my lungs. Within minutes, my bronchioles respond by constricting, and I struggle to breathe. I have no choice but to use my inhaler, because gasping for air is not my favorite fall activity.
By November, the birds are congregating, noisily awaiting their departure for their distant winter homes. Nights become frigid. Early morning displays of hoarfrost on my windows are a special treat, not only because they are lovely, but because the onset of frost means the end of my suffering. The wonders of autumn will never stop amazing me, but the arrival of winter weather will always be a tremendous relief. Maybe I should reconsider those allergy shots.
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