Autumn is the Midwest’s chance to shine


If you can’t stand the heat, you are probably part of a Midwestern autumn. Refrigeration keeps things fresh, right? That is the theory I am working with.

Living in the Midwest all my life, I like to think that our regular chilly weather is keeping me well-preserved. I am currently enjoying autumn weather. This is when the Midwest really shines. Temperate days in the mid 60’s to low 70 degrees. Cool but not “cold.” Nights may dip down to cold, but not freezing.

“Good sleeping weather,” we say.

When people say they need to enjoy “the seasons” what they really mean is “Autumn.” No one really goes on at length about loving winter with its snow, sleet or slush.

Sure the first snowfall “hushed and white” and “blanketing” things may get some love. Everyone rushes to curl up by a cozy fire or other heat source, make chili or soup and bake something. Then, the cold just sticks around.

The rest of the winter — grey skies and dirty snow mixed with grit and despair? Not so much. Autumn is what we are here for.


This is our one chance each year to be superior to other, hotter, states. Like the ugly duckling who finally shines, Midwest Autumn flaunts itself. Burnt orange and sienna leaves flutter down against a bright blue sky.

Autumn in the Midwest brings puffy white clouds and shirt sleeve weather. It is just crisp enough at night for a hoodie and a bonfire. Maybe a Carhart jacket in the early mornings too. You won’t need a hat and gloves. You might have to turn on the heated seats but it won’t take you 40 minutes to clear the car off — yet.

Here in our old house, which costs roughly a trillion dollars per month to heat according to Mr. Wonderful, we take a completely arbitrary date based approach to allowing the heat to be on. We don’t care if it snows. You aren’t firing up the heat until at least Oct. 15 and frankly, that’s only if the dogs seem chilly. We prefer Nov. 1.

Cold rooms

Mr. Wonderful is a firm believer in getting a sweater, blanket, warm socks, perhaps a hat, gloves and parka. Me, I just like to be warm enough that my prehistoric “hibernation” mode isn’t triggered. I don’t need it super warm. Just enough that I can’t see my breath inside my own home please.

Mr. Wonderful and I make a great pair. He would live in an igloo to save money, and my hobbies include turning up the thermostat to 69 degrees and then complaining bitterly that it is “too hot.” I was raised in the days when “Keep it at 68” was an actual sticker they gave us to put on the thermostat to remind us that Mother Earth (and a global energy crisis) were counting on us to put on a sweater.

Accordingly, I also cannot sleep if the room is warmer than the low 60’s. Perfect sleeping weather is 50 degrees. In either case, I will still run a fan. I run a fan all year round.

My grandmother grew up in the 1930’s and slept with a window cracked open all her life. Snow might drift on the windowsills, but it was “healthier,” she said. I am not one to call my beloved Gram a liar, so a cold room will always be my first choice for sleeping. It is when I’m awake that refusing to turn on the heat requires some creativity.


Many of us look at that brief period of time when we don’t need heat or air conditioning/excessive fan use as sort of “utility holiday.” With our electric bills regularly running over $300 (and no, we do not have electric heat), I look for every way to save a buck or two hundred.

If that means dressing in multiple layers until I loosely resemble a bulky bear — so be it. I give up being cute for being warm every winter. November through March, I live in wool socks and sheepskin boots. The frumpiness warms me.

Everyone I know does the same. It is necessary to have your favorite heavy sweater or sweatshirt, blankie, perhaps a pet or four to warm you. What we will not do until at least Nov. 1 is turn on the furnace.

The real topic of conversation this time of year is not “How’s the weather?”

It is “have you turned your heat on yet?”

Of course any answer other than a scoffing “of course not,” means that you are a definite weakling or, at the very least, just moved up from down south.


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