Fall feels different this year

Published 12:00 pm Friday, October 11, 2013

Fall feels different this year. For one thing, so far I’ve spent too much of it inside.

I missed the Harvest Moon rising over the lake. I forgot to send Martha Hammond the first red leaf I saw along my road.

My two old dogs still manage to hunt in the cool early mornings, but either they are slower or the squirrels quicker. I’m thinking it’s the former. I can’t help wondering when they’ll be over the bridge and beneath the rocks with Mabel and Hannah.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Football, which used to consume me, seems this season to be broadcasting from a different planet. By rote I pull for Auburn and against Alabama, but that’s as natural as taking a breath. I can’t find the proper passion for either task.

For the first time in my life, I don’t turn up the music on the sunlit porch in the afternoons. Is there an age of demarcation for really listening to music? Will I become one of those soulless persons who think of it as merely background noise? I surely hope not.

I keep thinking about Jimmy Carter and his infamous use of the word “malaise.” He got into big trouble for even suggesting that as a nation we might feel it. But then he also got into trouble for lowering the speed limit to save lives and for wearing a sweater.

That was part of his popularity problem. He dealt in the truth. Never popular.

I’m re-reading my friend Todd Johnson’s novel, “The Sweet By and By.” It is a wonderful book, full of pathos and humor, which seems to suit my mood. Most of the characters live or work in a nursing home.

Health care has been much on my mind.

I keep reading reports about Alabama and Mississippi and plenty of other states turning down billions of dollars in federal money to keep from expanding Medicaid to insure poor people and cooperating with the president.

The last part of that sentence is the key to understanding the insanity of turning down string-free funds to provide health care for the poorest citizens. It is political cowardice and lack of compassion.

Candidates don’t want to be seen as cooperating with a black president. That’s the simple truth and the bottom line.

“Scratch hard enough and you’ll find a racial angle to every story,” my late editor in Memphis once said to me. So far, four decades into my trade, he hasn’t been wrong.

Why is it that the more a politician or a party professes to own the franchise on Christianity, the harder the attitude toward the poor? Makes no sense to me. Not in the Bible my grandmother believed.

I guess we are moving from a fall of frustration to a winter of discontent. There is no apparent remedy for hard human hearts. There is no prescription for nonchalant greed.

I won’t stay in this senseless funk, this malaise. I’ll get bored with myself, find my favorite sweater with the moth holes, listen to Hank on the porch and give myself a fireside chat. My old dogs and I will howl at the Hunter’s Moon.

(To find out more about Rheta Grimsley Johnson and her books, visit