That autumn heater smell

Steven Law's favorite time of the year begins when the heater kicks on.

A week ago Sunday was the first day I turned on the heater in our house. I love the smell of the heater the first time it kicks on in the fall. It’s a unique smell. It’s merely the smell of the heater’s element burning off the dust that has collected on it since that last cold day in April. Like many things in life, it’s not so much the thing itself that I love as it is the associations it carries with it. The reason I love that smell so much is because it marks the arrival of autumn – my favorite time of year – and all the great things that come with it.

Fall is such a beautiful, wonderful time to be in Page. The weather is crisp, the lake is uncrowded, the bugs have died off.

It’s a beautiful time throughout all of America. On the same day that I turned on my heater, somewhere over the Midwestern plains geese were making their way from the gray skies of the north to the blue skies of the south. In beautiful Yellowstone the grizzlies were perhaps noticing the shortening days and their thoughts returned to hibernation. The last dispatch of Monarchs were returning to their wintering grounds in Michoacan, Mexico. Along every stream on the Colorado Plateau – whether Cottonwood Creek as it passes through Orangeville, Utah, the Virgin River as it passes through Zion National Park, or the Escalante River as it passes through God’s Country – the leaves of the glorious Cottonwoods were turning gold.

Few things are better than autumn in the Colorado Plateau. For poets in the field the inspiration and imagery comes faster than they can write it down. Photographers burn through memory cards quicker than matches in a windstorm in their attempt to catch the season’s perfect light falling across Monument Valley, The Grand Canyon and the Vermilion Cliffs.

Winter, especially after a few weeks of cabin fever, is the time of dreaming the year’s big adventures. Spring and summer is the time for the doing of the adventures, and autumn is the time to tell the stories of the adventures.

If you ask me what I prefer most: adventure time or story time, it’s a toss-up. I love them both equally.

Autumn is the time for curling up with a good book and a slice of pumpkin pie. Speaking of smells that trigger cozy memories, the smell of pumpkin pie baking in a steamy kitchen and the musty smell of an old paperback are right up.

Autumn in Page is the Balloon Regatta, elk hunting, quilting marathons, pumpkins riding shotgun next to toddlers in the grocery cart. Our guides - whether from Wilderness River Adventures, Antelope Canyon Tours or Hidden Canyon Kayaks – have had more than enough vitamin D and not quite enough sleep. Their patience has grown thin, their bank accounts have grown fat. They browse through travel guides preparing to embark on their own travels. They’re on opposite schedules with Orion.

Autumn is time to bury the tulip bulbs and dig out the Halloween decorations. Bring in the boat and take out the quilt. Close down the A/C and open up the windows. Trim the lawn one last time and grow out the beard one more time (at least for our elk hunters).

And speaking of yard work: now that it’s cool enough to work outside all day is exactly the time when we finish the yard work for the year. One of life’s great ironies.

Yes, the cool weather is divine. The pumpkin pie is wonderful. Sipping cocoa while reading a Russian novel buried in a mushy chair is bliss. But what truly makes this season my favorite season is the company of friends and family. Carving pumpkins with my daughter is terrifically fun. Doing it with Gram and Bapbap is unbeatable. Having a backyard Dutch oven cookout is superb. Doing it with old friends is un-toppable. Watching college football is one of my absolute favorite ways to spend a Saturday afternoon, but it doesn’t compare to a three-generation game of Turkey Bowl.

And hey, to make it truly great, let’s swap some stories while we do it. Fall, after all, is the storytelling season. So gather round. Pour me some eggnog and tell me about your trip to Costa Rica, your son’s award-winning trumpet solo, your daughter’s first time standing up on a surfboard.

It’s autumn. Please, come inside. Have a seat. Just set that Tolstoy on the shelf there. Cocoa or cider?

Brrr. It’s a bit chilly in here, dontcha think?

Before you tell me about Paris, let me just turn on the heater.



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