The less appealing aspects of late autumn
November always finds me waxing poetic about the flavor of just-harvested fruits, the earthy aroma of fallen leaves, the nip of imminent winter and the brilliant hues of flora and sky. But like everything else in life, this lovely season has a flip side.
Nowhere is this more evident than on my own body. Soon after the leaves change color, I begin my own transformation.
It starts with one of those cool, clear, sunny fall days. I slip into my favorite jeans, throw some chili in the Crock-Pot and spend the day outdoors apple-picking, raking leaves or window shopping while sipping a latte. Not wanting to miss a good selfie opportunity, I don cool reflective shades, wrap a bohemian scarf around my neck and brush my hair to one side. Smile, click and post!
I zoom in on the photo and notice a deep crease between my brows from squinting and a raccoon-like pattern of windburn on my cheeks. My lips are severely chapped and the cold-weather pallor of my skin makes my teeth look pumpkin spiced. And my hair has the stringy, dehydrated appearance of a witch’s straw broom.
Later, I find that my shins have the scaly appearance of alligator hide, and my torso is so crepe-like, I release a flurry of flakes when taking off my shirt. I immediately slather myself in moisturizer, but it’s too late. My body has begun to winterize itself, and any effort to delay the process is sadly futile.
Soon, a tiny crack forms in the hardening skin at the corner of my fingernail. For some reason, these minuscule cold-weather lesions are disproportionately painful. One small bump of the affected finger sends deep stabbing pains up my arm, and the agony is only slightly mitigated by Band-Aids and ointment.
To make matters worse, my joints begin to ache. Like those cows that lay down when rain is coming, cold weather brings out the bovine in me. Shortly after slurping my first sweet sip of cider, my joints suddenly become a reliable indicator of barometric pressure.
“Lisa’s limping today — must be a cold front coming through!”
And of course, the autumnal air, with its aroma of fermenting fruits and fall flowers, wreaks havoc on my sinuses. Thanks to the seasonal combo of pollen and mold, I inevitably catch a head cold. At first, I believe that it will be just the sympathy-garnering event I need to compel Francis to bring me soup in bed. But instead, it devolves into nothing more than a “sinus situation.” I learn to live with a constant tickle just behind my uvula, requiring me to do that obnoxious, sucking throat scratch that keeps Francis up at night. I hack up unmentionable phlegmy things in the bathroom sink. I walk around in a sinus-pressure fog, wondering why my nasal passages are abundantly lubricated while the rest of my body is shriveling like a dried apple.
In an attempt to reverse this most unfortunate seasonal change in my body, I adjust my bedtime ritual. On my nightstand, I stack vitamins, anti-inflammatories, a foam roller for my joints, a callus exfoliator that looks like a parmesan cheese grater, anti-wrinkle cream, moisturizing lip salve and teeth-whitening strips. While sitting on the side of the bed, I apply all these products, finishing off by circling a stick of cocoa balm around my mouth, forehead and eyes like I’m buttering a Thanksgiving turkey.
“What the hell are you doing over there?” Francis asks, looking up from his book.
“Whatever it takes,” I respond.
Despite my Herculean efforts, by the time winter arrives next month, my face will probably resemble one of those collapsing jack-o’-lanterns you see rotting on front porches, my hair we be so crunchy it’s ready to be baled, my skin will be flakier than pie crust, my joints will be as stiff as week-old road kill, and I’ll have a case of incessant post-nasal drip.
On the upside, the birds won’t dare perch on our windowsills thanks to my uncanny resemblance to a scarecrow.