A breeze came out of the North one day, and cried, “September’s begun!”
A breeze came out of the North one day, declared, “The Summer is done!”

by Jack Ahlers

You know the fall air—it is somehow clearer than that of dead summer’s heat. Sounds take on a different tone than at any other season. There is a quietness which permeates nature, uniquely belonging to fall. Winter air is both muted and hushed. Today, the fall air is stilled. A single engine tow plane, for the gliders, just passed overhead several times, but its engine hum was not quite the same as in summer, reminding me of the post-Labor Day drone of outboard motors pushing small boats out on the lake, or a pre-jet liner passenger planes passing overhead (just low enough to be heard, and sometimes seen), of the rare moments when Erie Road traffic was at a lull, and a lone vehicle moaned by.

There is a certain peace in the fall air, the lengthening of shadows; a slowing of activities; all awaiting winter’s sleep. As I thought about writing this, my mind drifted, and an interesting thought came flying in. I have often spoken of that feeling of peace and security which came over me when, as a child, I would go to bed in our old home on the Erie Road. And I remember similar feelings from the days when we took one of Aunt Gert’s summer cottages at the lake. Bedtime at the cottage produced that same sense of security.

And then, I realized that it was no different when many years later we had our camper trailer quartered on a year-round site at the campground in Varysburg. Often, after having shared our campfire with friends, in late evening my wife Shirley would go into the trailer. I liked to stay outside awhile. The trailer gave a warm and cozy feeling, with a welcoming light showing inside, outlined by the dying campfire. As the firelight nestled into the trees, again there came the knowing that all was right with our world. It was only then I could retire into the trailer and drift into a peaceful sleep.

I have realized that throughout all those years I was reliving my childhood’s close of day. I’m sure that not every child has such blessed memories, and am thankful beyond all for them. True, I did spend a great deal of time alone as a child, but on the balance that made me more aware of things around me and helped me tune in to feelings which I might have otherwise missed.

Each fall, I remember our first day of the new school year in Mrs. Holtz’s music class. Our homeroom would troop down to the “music room” en masse. Always, we would be greeted by the same sights and odors; the square wood panels of the floor buckled up from the summer’s heat, (they would return to normal by themselves, in due time). There was no tripping and then suing the school; we simply walked around spots likely to give trouble—such a simple solution. The one-of-a-kind smell of the music books, hard covered, stacked around the room. I believe to this day that the aroma came from the board covers on them. Shortly, Mrs. Holtz, attired in a business suit with a carved wooden maple leaf on her lapel, would seat herself at the piano, and the first song she would lead with would be that minor-keyed dirge. “A breeze came out of the North one day….” That signaled the official end of summer. Simple, sad, and significant, I both loved and hated it.

Change was most noticeable at the lake. For two months the beaches had been crowded, teeming with people enjoying the all-too-brief season. Swimmers, sunbathers, walkers, running dogs (occasionally sunburnt boaters), all of them bent on having a great time while it could be had.

And then, suddenly, as if God had suddenly swept the earth clean, they were gone. The beach was now quiet, deserted, somehow lonely. It was nice to have sand all to yourself, and yet there was a sadness, too. You could almost hear the shouts and laughter from only a few days before—there was a different energy. That was when I loved to walk the coves, the circling birds crying plaintively as they contemplated their long southward journeys.

Today is that kind of day.

Submission by Sally Cook

 

 

Jack Ahlers was born in 1937 and passed suddenly in the spring of 2019. After earning his bachelor’s degree and teaching certification,  he joined the army, and was sent to Germany, where he became a chaplain. On returning home, he become an English teacher, and taught for 20 years, performing shows as a magician throughout the Northeastern United States and Canada.

 


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6 Responses

  1. Leo Zoutewelle

    Sally, to me this is a gripping and beautiful account of important memories.
    Thank you for submitting this!
    Leo

    Reply
    • Sally

      Leo –

      Jack was a good friend. He had been preparing a book called “Tales of the Erie Road” when he died, quite unexpectedly. I could not let his talents to go unrecognized.

      So glad to see Jack Ahlers’ introspective essay here, on the SPC site.

      His comparisons of the weather to the smells and sights of a small but crucial moment in time almost becomes poetry
      Thanks to Evan for posting it.

      Reply
  2. James A. Tweedie

    My local newspaper is starting a weekly poetry corner and is asking for readers to submit poems that reflect on the season of Fall. My meager effort pales before the descriptive, evocative lyricism of Jack Ahlers’ prose . . . and his insight about sounds being different in the Fall is spot on! Thank you, Sally, for submitting this essay in honor and in memory of your friend. And thank you, Evan, for posting it.

    Reply
  3. Sally Cook

    Jack would be astounded to know that his words appeal to people. Wish he would have done this while he was still living.

    Reply
  4. Theresa Rodriguez

    Sally, thank you for submitting this beautiful and poetic essay from your friend Jack Ahler. I enjoyed reading it very much!

    Reply
    • Sally Cook

      Theresa –

      Sensitive and perceptive comments such as yours would have been humbly received by Jack, and greatfullly received on his behalf by me.

      Reply

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