Staff Columnist

In Iowa: Fall arrives, and so does the anxiety

(Gazette file photo)
(Gazette file photo)

I worked on two stories this past week that left me unable to deny that fall is truly here: an update on the fall leaves color forecast from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (in short: the leaves, they are a-changing), and a feature on the family of friends who run Circle of Ash Haunted Attraction.

They lost one of their own this year, co-owner Ian Austin, who died in a car crash in April, and are dedicating this season’s haunts and scares to his memory. Their tribute includes more creepy clowns and demon dolls and ghoulish light shows than most memorials, perhaps, but I could tell from their conversations about Austin that it is exactly right for who he was.

If Halloween scares aren’t your favorite way to welcome in October (I’m with you — I waited by the car while Gazette photographer Andy Abeyta was documenting Circle of Ash volunteers as they set up prop “bodies” in the haunted forest), then other ways to embrace fall are here.

The weather is finally cooling down enough to break out warm sweaters and cozy socks, to think about steaming bowls of soup and mugs of apple cider and, yes, pumpkin spice lattes. I may have just learned what a VSCO girl is this week from some younger, more tuned-in friends and co-workers, but I admit I’ve been basic for a long time and I do love some pumpkin spice.

Of course, fall inevitably leads to anxiety-inducing thoughts of winter, which may be why I woke up earlier this week in a panic, having just had a very vivid dream that it was snowing and that I had waited too long to harvest the basil and tomatoes still growing in my garden.

They were now frozen and dead. As is often the case in dreams, this manifested in my drowsy mind as a much bigger deal than it actually would be, and I awoke with a bitter feeling of loss for all the pesto I wouldn’t be eating. Then, of course, I looked out the window and realized it was another warm, snow-free day, the vestiges of summer still blanketing the state in muggy heat.

Perhaps the snow anxiety dream was precipitated not just by the looming evidence of fall but by news I had just read about an “unprecedented” snowstorm that dumped 48 inches on the town of Browning, Montana, over the weekend of Sept. 27-29 and walloped much of the rest of the region with snow and ice and record cold.


Even in Montana, it is not supposed to snow this much this early. The National Weather Service declared the storm “historic” as records were set across the state, and authorities warned of potential for flash flooding as the thermostat returned to normal and the snow melted.

The news barely registered in Iowa, as much of the state seemed to be caught up in Carson King fever. Similarly, a U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that the world’s oceans are warming at alarming rates that could have cascading impacts on life as we know it went little remarked on in the scrum of our frenzied news cycles.

Perhaps that’s really where my anxiety dream of snow killing my garden came from. It’s a creeping sense that if we don’t act soon, we’ll lose far too much to the coming storms.

Another sign of fall, the harvest, isn’t happening for many of our neighbors in the southwest part of the state.

Which beer company do I need to boycott to impact those issues? Oh, it’s more complicated than that? I guess I’ll just make sure to take my reusable mug to the coffee shop for my pumpkin spice drinks and let the fall flavors offer me what comfort they can. In perspective, the haunted houses don’t seem so scary, now, after all.

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