Autumn is a colorful time of year in Erie County.
The landscape goes through some very dramatic changes.
Summer's flowers display their last bursts of reds, blues, whites, yellows and oranges.
The leaves on the trees go through their annual transformation from sparkling greens to sunbursts of yellow, crimson reds and bright oranges.
Sunrises and sunsets, the spectacular colors of flocks of migratory birds, clear blue skies which help define pure white puffs of clouds and even the deep darkening colors caused by on-coming storms all provide a rainbow that defines the end of one season and the advent of another.
Wait a second. Those aren't the colorful signs of the season -- they're political campaign signs covering the lawns in neighborhoods throughout the area. And they seem to be everywhere: lawns, vacant lots, rights of way, trees, cars, trucks, fields, sides of buildings, fences, even the fronts and backs of T-shirts.
Yep, it's that time of year again -- the time when our brains are bombarded with the visual stimulation of people trying to get elected to office.
Some scorn the signage. Others are more than happy to display political signs.
But whether you are a proponent or opponent of the practice, it is only one small step on the campaign trail.
Say what you will about the political process, and say what you will about the individual candidates, but while contemplating that also think about the time, effort, energy and courage it takes to run for office. Politics is a blood sport. As one wag put it: "This ain't beanbag."
Whether running for a seat on a board of education, a board of township trustees, a city council, a city commission, a judgeship or a county office these women and men deserve credit for being willing to put themselves on the line -- to face the residents of the community -- saying, "I want to serve."
It is not an easy process and it is not an easy decision to run for office.
Family comes first. It is harder to convince some family members than others that trying to get elected to office is a step worth taking. The next step is the need to recruit friends and friends of friends to help with the effort.
Defining the reasons for running, writing copy for brochures and speeches, graphic design of brochures and signs, finding print shops with the "union bug" to print material, designing newspaper advertisements and/or writing radio spots are all part of the process.
Some candidates finance their own campaigns. Others ask for donations or sponsor events to raise money for the campaign. It costs money to run for office, and at times that detracts from the effort, but it is true nonetheless that the reality of the political process requires funding.
It is a lot of work, and believe it or not, these tasks are the easiest the candidate faces.
Standing in front of an audience to deliver a message, then answering specific questions about issues takes guts.
Walking through neighborhoods, going door to door, to deliver that same message can be exhausting.
Yet, it is also exhilarating to find people who are willing to listen. It's also humiliating when a door is slammed in your face. You never get used to that, but you have to campaign.
A candidate learns quickly who his true friends are as they help him and cheer him on every step of the way.
Day after day the campaign is uppermost in a candidate's mind. Running for office is a long, grueling, arduous task; and there are days when it seems Election Day will never arrive.
For some of those who sit on the sidelines, it also seems to them that Election Day will never arrive. As people are bombarded with yard signs, campaign brochures and political promises it may appear the election process has polluted the landscape.
But, if we step aside for a moment and really think about what we are observing, a campaign can take on a whole new perspective.
We all have our own personal opinions about who should be elected to office. Some of us are even smart enough to know when a candidate has his own personal agenda. At times it's easy to ferret out which candidate is the lackey of a particular politician or special interest group.
But, whatever the reason people run for office, the fact still remains, more than 99.9 percent of us wouldn't walk in their shoes if given the choice. And for that reason alone, if for none other, they deserve our respect for making the effort to stand up and face us.