As neighboring farmers undertake their annual corn and soybean harvests, I'm busy reaping a bumper crop of a Midwestern commodity called "good sleeping weather." When it began rolling in a few weeks ago, our local TV meteorologist behaved with the barely suppressed glee of a town gossip about to impart a juicy secret. "Tomorrow, we'll turn off the AC," he said coyly. "By nightfall, we may need to close the windows." After another moment, he broke into a pixie-ish grin and blurted his punch line: "The furnace could even kick in!"
Condenser-cooled air abruptly supplanted by nature's chill? Summer's relentless heat suddenly spent, putting the furnace on notice? I caught myself smiling back at the TV, charmed by these piquant contrasts.
Good sleeping weather, Iowa-style, consists foremost of coolness. It is further distinguished by an encroaching darkness that bookends the days, and a literal night-and-day temperature difference, as sunny warm afternoons and nippy nights mimic desert weather. Here on the prairie, a 35-degree temperature range on a given day is uncommon enough to be celebrated.
Sleeping weather also encompasses subtler changes. Morning songbirds that trilled raucously during May have piped down, and many are departing. July's deafening 2 a.m. thunderstorms have long since ceased. Cicadas that thrummed through August like an electrical substation have lowered their volume, slowed their cadence.
As the season settles, so do I. Letting nature hold sway, I adapt in passive ways. Blankets unfold like paper fans from the bottom of the bed. Pajamas sprout sleeves. Pets and partner slide closer, aligning with the season, each other, and me, pooling warmth. As the window screens sieve a midnight breeze, the scent of senescence fills the room. I tug the blanket toward my chin, a motion as exquisite as it is requisite. As I fumble, half asleep, I note - and relish the novelty - that for the first time in months my fingertips are cold, and ... Ha! So is my nose. I breathe and dream deeply, quaffing a coolness I'd forgotten existed.
Good sleeping weather invades benignly, although it's as enveloping as a mood. Soon it assumes the proportions of metaphor: We've sweltered through the paradox of a humid drought; we've sampled the state fair yet again; we've seen the summer through. The family reunion is behind us once more, and, impossible as it seems, that long-awaited, all-important vacation is already a memory.
Sometimes it seems as if I'm squandering these lovely nights, sleeping through them so blithely. But good sleeping weather is too fine even for minor regrets. Besides, Indian summer, that final interlude, still lies ahead, waiting to be savored before winter stakes its certain and nonnegotiable claim.