Where I live, in the north midwest, we have been enjoying an extended period of so-called Indian Summer, a late-autumn interval that occurs most (but not all) years just before winter arrives with its full force of cold and snow. In these parts, winters are frequently bitter, and the weather forecasters are predicting a very bitter one this year.
A really vintage Indian Summer, and I would rate this year's as one of those, is like a vintage wine. It's more complex, richer and deeper than most Indian Summers, and it is meant to savor, to indulge the self in, to participate with the landscape which harbors it for a brief time. We have Indian Summers where I grew up, along Lake Erie, beautiful and warm, but not so much premonitions of the reversal of climate that is to come.
Most of my readers know me as a journalist who writes about American politics and international affairs. A smaller number know I am also a literary writer who has created a body of work in poetry and short fiction, as well as a few efforts in theater. The path I took to write as a journalist was one of economic survival, but I did not abandon the poems and short stories. Nevertheless, my second education in the "real" world of elections, business, and campaigns often trumped my education as an artist.
We have all observed a remarkable interval in our country, and in the world, in the past 20 years, as we left the so-called Cold War behind us, and proceeded without a road map to the next circumstances on our little planet. My journalist self has dominated my consciousness and my daily attention, as the fascinating details of new relationships, new wars, new political personalities, and life's mysterious way of always surprising us with unplanned events have overtaken us.
I notice lately, however, that my literary self is stirring, and I believe this is no accident. Some persons think of themselves, and appear to others, as pessimists. Others say they are, and appear to others, as optimists. To paraphrase a line from Robert Frost's "Fire and Ice," I see see the pessimism, but optimism is also "nice, and would suffice." My journalist self writes about an orderly world combating disorder. My literary self responds to those moments in time when disorder seems out of control. It is less logical and more intuitive.
This is a long way of saying that disorder and human vulnerability is growing all around us. We have been inundated with such constant new information, mechanical technologies, changed velocities of virtually all the tools our species uses every day, and provocations of our senses, that we seem to be losing some of the natural and necessary processes that keep life in some kind of balance.
Does this mean revolutions and social upheaval? Does it mean more or less totalitarian regimes and ideologies? Does it mean new forms of violence and repression? To be honest, I don't know what it means. But the reordering of the conditions of the world means that it is not going to be business as usual in the years and decades ahead.
Readers who would rather read about my analyses of the 2010 elections and the 2012 presidential contest, and I suspect that is most of my readers, need not worry that I will now send out on The Prairie Editor and my website a plethora of unfathomable and portentous diatribes and prophecies. I will return to the here-and-now of our curious political life soon enough.
But I thought I might mention, as I savor the Indian Summer of 2009, my intuitions of something bigger and perhaps more ominous also waiting for us ahead.