This morning the air was cool – not unusual for a fall morning in New England. As I was driving to work enjoying the chilly feeling (while wearing a sweatshirt, no less) – I smelled a familiar smell – burning wood. I thought to myself “no doubt a woodstove”. I would say that the smell of the first woodstove being lit has always held a special place in my heart. As a kid growing up in Upstate New York the sight of smoke from a chimney in the fall was common, and welcome. A time of riding bikes in the “woods”, apple everything, and cool nights. As time passed and I became more of an adult, it the meaning changed to something a bit different – time to get busy getting things ready for Winter. Machines, Outdoor Furniture, assorted household needs before “the weather comes in”. I guess you could say they are The Rituals of Fall. But, back to my morning commute……
As I cruised along in my wonderful piece of 1980’s German Technology, I began to make a checklist of all the things it’ll need this winter. Now, in my mind, the concept of “need” with my cars is really on a priority scale. At any given time, I could probably name 10 things I’d change on almost any car I come in contact with (boats too). Hmmm…could use a better radio, the brakes have a squeak I need to look at, probably wouldn’t hurt to balance the wheels, definitely due for the 90,000 mile maintenance service, that one door seal seems a bit torn. An ongoing and thorough assessment, to be sure.
Many years ago, I proposed the idea to customers to write down everything they come across that they’d like to have fixed on their cars. A notepad in the center console or glovebox was usually what I recommended. To some, this was a crazy idea. Long ago, someone once told me that your head is no place to keep anything, though, and I’ve proven it to myself more times than I can count. On my drive in, I vowed to write down all of these “punch list” items when I arrived at work – which of course I didn’t. Internally, though, I know that it’s best to get everything on the cars done in the Fall, while they are fresh in your mind, and so you don’t miss any of the beautiful sunny days of Spring.
I’ve always looked forward to the Rituals of Fall because they come with a payoff – one filled with nostalgia for me. Every fall my father, my cousin, and I would load up the car with cleaning supplies and tools for the first of the rituals – the putting away of the boat. It was thoroughly serviced (“pickled” as we called it), cleaned, detailed, and all needed items were attended to. Only after those steps were complete was it put away in the barn – a machine ready to go for Spring – all you had to do was turn the ignition key. I can vividly remember seeing the look of approval on Dad’s face coupled with a deep sense of peace when he took that last look at the Boat before the shadows covered it as it was backed into the Barn for a long winter’s nap.
When the boat was done, we carried out the same procedure for each car. With each vehicle pickled for winter, more peace came. When the last of the vehicles were put away, our reward was rest – usually incorporating fireplaces and hockey games (and cookies). A celebration of the end of the pickling season, so to speak.
So, this Fall, now that the woodstoves have spoken, I will get the Boat and Cars ready for Spring and – when it’s all done – hopefully have the same smile of Peace and Approval Dad did. I wish you all the same.