Staff Columnist

Time seems frozen in season of transition

Leaves fall onto a stump in 2009 at City Park in Iowa City. (The Gazette)
Leaves fall onto a stump in 2009 at City Park in Iowa City. (The Gazette)

It is fall, a time of transition, as the seasons change and so do the rhythms of our lives; kids go back to school, we start to move indoors, put away summer clothes and summer concerns to prepare for winter.

I’m buying boxes of tomatoes from the farmers market and making big batches of tomato sauce and salsa and freezing them alongside peppers picked from my garden and making plans to turn the basil harvest into pesto I can eat in the months to come.

But things are different this year. It doesn’t feel like a transitional season so much as a frozen one even before the frost comes, a pause, waiting. We can’t move on with our lives until this season has passed, and so it’s hard to know just what to do.

I admit a little nervousness, freezing all this summer bounty, because the memory of throwing so much food away while the power was out after the derecho is fresh at hand.

So many of us are waiting for insurance and contractors to respond, still, now almost two months after the storm, before we can have our homes squared away for ice and snow, our roofs covered and sealed. Others with much worse damage are still in hotel rooms or sleeping on friends’ couches, an unsustainable situation with no end in sight. We can’t move on, can’t transition from this season, so we wait.

Kids may be back in school, but not all of them, and those schools are riddled with uncertainty, about safety, about if it will last or if they’ll be sent home again. How do you properly dive into a school year with such worries?

We vote in a month, or at least that’s the Election Day, but we may not know the results for days or weeks after the election, depending on how long tabulating mail-in votes takes. Another period of uncertainty instead of transition.

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I think of the people in California and Oregon and Washington state, waiting to see how this fire season will turn out, if their homes will be spared. Even after a fire passes, waiting to see if another one will kindle. I think of the students who participate in climate strikes each week, waiting to see if we, the adults, will act. The protesters hoping to bring attention to centuries of pain and oppression, wondering how much longer they must march.

All of us waiting, watching the scientists, hoping they’ll find a cure or a vaccine. Some of us waiting to see whether our loved ones make it.

We aren’t waiting passively, to be sure. We’re busy trying to track down roofing companies or new rentals, we’re making sure we’re registered to vote, we’re sending our kids to school with masks and shields or helping them learn from home as best we can. I’m turning tomatoes into sauce, cucumbers into pickles, putting some stores up against what might come.

But mostly, instead of a season of transition, something feels stuck right now. So I’m trying to wait with grace. Watching sunsets and talking with friends and reading books and trying to live in the moment. If I can’t know what tomorrow brings, at least I can try to enjoy the moment.

It is fall, after all. Time to enjoy the vestiges of summer while welcoming the crisper, cooler air. Maybe, if I don’t let the waiting consume me, I can appreciate the momentary pause amid the turmoil of this year.

Comments: (319) 398-8339; alison.gowans@thegazette.com

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