Kathleen Murphy column: September sends mixed messages

I don’t particularly enjoy hot weather, but now that I know it’s leaving for the year, I already miss it. Didn’t the last patch of snow just melt?

Fall color as seen from Oberg Mountain in the Superior National Forest near Lutsen, Minn.
Clint Austin / 2019 file / Duluth News Tribune
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Autumn: It’s a favorite season for many. Crisp air, trees blossoming into a rainbow of colors, and pumpkin spice lattes. They are not my thing — too sweet — but even I know the seasonal drink is a hallmark of fall.

Kathleen Murphy_web.jpg
Kathleen Murphy

People who don’t like the heat of summer rush outside to enjoy the cool weather, and people who don’t like the cold snaps of winter flock to enjoy the last breath of summer.

This year has been a little confusing. The number in the dates now begin with a two, so we’re officially in the end of September — but I’m wearing a sundress. And I’m too warm. The temps have been in the high 70s (I might be one of those whiners who suffer in the heat of summer).

The radio DJ told me this morning that it would be the last warm day of the year, which means I now have an irresistible urge to go outside and soak in the sun over my lunch break, even though I know I’ll feel all sweaty and miserable.

I put myself through a fairly lengthy chore every August to produce something I can’t eat.

Regardless if September is unusually warm, unusually cold, or just right, it’s always a season of mixed messages for me. I don’t particularly enjoy hot weather, but now that I know it’s leaving for the year, I already miss it. Didn’t the last patch of snow just melt? I feel like it was just a few weeks ago that I was eyeballing the last packed down spot of snow that my double-coated dog hoarded for its coolness, even when the snow patch had melted down to the size of a paperback book.


It always feels as though summer went too fast, and now my brain is busy mulling over (mmm … mulled apple cider) all of the autumn chores that I need to do to prepare my house and yard for winter. It feels overwhelming.

Do I need a new winter coat? I need to buy sand for my driveway. Where the heck did I store my shovels? One of my kids just bought a new-to-him car, one of the sporty looking ones that looks all cool and snazzy but is rear-wheel drive, so I alternate between frantically Googling the phrase “tips for driving such an inappropriate car in the winter” and searching for a cheap front-wheel drive car that he can drive when the snow falls. Mothers never stop worrying.

In the back of my brain is always the reminder that an early season storm might be brewing, and I need to be prepared. The Halloween storm of 1991 is always fresh in all of our minds, and will likely be a story our grandchildren tell their grandchildren. The 2019 Thanksgiving storm is a more recent example.

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My yard seems to be at the end of a wind tunnel, as the 20-plus inches dumped on Duluth over those two days piled up to form banks over four feet deep. I have photos of my son’s Toyota completely buried under its parking space against the garage, its bright-red paint job completely obscured by a gently rising hill of white. Anyone who didn’t know better would think it was a hill in the yard. Another photo shows one of my full-grown sons shoveling a path to the cars, the snow bank against the porch almost level with his shoulders.

These memories always add a slight layer of stress and urgency to my fall, sitting right there in my brain alongside more positive and mouth-watering images of apple crisp and Hubbard squash.

I could rid myself of this admittedly low-level stress if I just did what I needed to do to prepare, but I am a procrastinator. Nothing will get done until October or November, when history tells me might possibly be too late. That’s just how I roll. I rely on that sense of panic to force myself to get things done.

Until the panic sets in, I’m going to enjoy autumn walks with my partner and the pooches, eat an unreasonable amount of squash-based dinners, and visit an orchard or two.

Happy autumn, my friends.


Kathleen Murphy is a freelance writer who lives and works in Duluth. You can reach her at .

Related Topics: DULUTHFAMILY
Kathleen Murphy is a freelance writer who lives and works in Duluth.
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