Can you feel it? Fall is finally here. Even though temperatures in the 90s hung around until last week, I could sense fall was on the way.
First of all, the light changed in some subtle way, the earth shifted in its orbit making shadows appear longer, yellow hues began to creep into the trees along the wood line, the crickets’ chirp became a little lower key and the most certain sign of all — Oscar came calling.
That’s right, Oscar, our 12-year-old yellow cat, is our most certain harbinger of cooler weather.
We adopted half-wild Oscar as a kitten. It took some coaxing and patience just to get Oscar to let us pet him, but eventually, he grew to be a love bug, at least during the fall and winter. In the spring and summer, once the danger of frost has passed, Oscar will slowly blend with the newly sprouting leaves back into the woods.
Oh you’ll see him occasionally, coming into the garage for food, but other than a few other fleeting glimpses, he’s pretty much out of sight for the duration of warmer weather. If you go walking in the woods, you might find him walking the trail behind you, or maybe not.
He’s our “phantom cat” coming and going as he pleases, on his own terms.
In winter, he spends the night inside most of the time, leaving the house when we get up, unless it’s very cold, or very wet. On those days, he may grace us with his presence for most of the day – but he always has to go outside, at least for a few hours.
About two weeks ago, there he was at dusk, sitting on the windowsill – though it was 93 degrees outside.
“Fall’s coming,” my husband said. “Oscar’s back.”
He honored us with a short visit that night, but skittered back out the door after a few minutes. He was just testing the waters, making sure all was as he left it last spring.
Ever since that evening, Oscar has appeared fairly regularly, and then Saturday evening as the record-breaking heat gave way, at long last, to a stirring humid breeze, Oscar appeared again, this time to stay awhile.
Tonight as I write this, he’s at my feet, his tawny eyes looking at me, purring in contentment, his fluffy body spread leisurely on the floor, looking for all the world like a contented house cat. Which he basically is, until those spring breezes carry him back out the door, to the woods he loves.
That’s when I’ll know for certain, more than any forecast, that spring has come again.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for The Madison County Journal.