The rain is steadily falling as I sit on my front porch. There is a gentle breeze, and the temperature is 73 degrees. You would never guess it is an August evening in the deep south. You can wistfully think that Fall is in the air, though any of us that have lived our lives in the humid south know that Dog Days are lurking around and another bout of the hot days of Summer will find us.
Nevertheless, we can savor these cool days when we are lucky to have them. The water dripping through the magnolia tree amplifies the sound of the rain. If I were in a hammock, the rest of this column would have to wait for another time. Such is the lure of the sound of a steady rain while sitting on the front porch.
There is a certain irony about the title of this essay. It was chosen two days ago while I was finishing my walk on a muggy Sunday morning before church. As I crossed the railroad tracks, my foot caught on the uneven pavement. I went sprawling to the rough ground along the right of way. My glasses flew off my face and my wrist, knees and hip all seem to hit the ground at the same time.
There was not much traffic on College Street on that early Sunday morning. No one stopped to help me, though I soon realized that I had managed to fall in the one spot where no one could even see me. I slowly pulled myself up while thinking how much harder these falls seem to be as we age.
As only a writer in constant search of a column title each week can understand, I thought to myself that at least I had something to write about. “Fall is in the air” seemed appropriate as I stumbled home, even though the temperature hit almost 90 degrees that hot and humid day.
Yet this evening, as I sat listening to the rain, writing my column, and nursing my sore joints, I heard the sound of a drumbeat. Actually, it was drumbeats as in plural. In the distance, probably a mile from my front porch I realized that the Auburn University Marching Band is practicing. In the rain. At night.
In more than one way, Fall is indeed in the air. Students have arrived and the energy of the downtown community has multiplied several fold. Parking spots are hard to find and reservations for good restaurants are at more of a premium.
Football season starts a week from now. We attended our first college volleyball exhibition last night. Orange and blue is everywhere and “War Eagle” is heard no matter where you go.
This is not specific to Auburn. These are the Fall days of any college town, feeding off the energy of Freshmen finding their way, forming memories that will last a lifetime.
How do I know that? Because, 50 years ago, I was one of those young Freshman students. I moved into a tiny apartment less than a mile from where I live now. I am sure I did not pay as much attention to the rain on an August evening back then. But I can tell you, I felt the excitement of Fall in the air.
We all have special times and places rooted in our past. They can be triggered by any number of sights, sounds, and even smells. Tonight, as I nurse the bruises of a man three generations removed from his college experience, I hear the rain and the band at the same time. They take me back to the time when a 17-year-old boy was first finding his own way, sensing for the first time that Fall was truly in the air.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org