Monday, October 24, 2011

Not Enough.

Forgive me, but even happily booted and flanneled and even with the Toad in a hoodie and me in a hat, I still felt like the walk to school smelled like spring. Something green's on the air. Possibilities: We're in for one last (or next-to-last) round of something blooming, the overseeded lawns are coming in, the leaves just now piling in the gutters are in the sweeter stage of rot—or maybe this is fall, and I just don't remember. How much more human I've been feeling this time through, with the Toad at sixteen months, than I did last year, even though this time last year was the time I thought I was settling in, finally, the time I thought I might in some small way like the child.

I did not yet like the child. Now I like him plenty. Plenty.

And he's found the moon, says 'luna' every time he sees the sky, day or night, luna or no. Looks for stars up there, looks for them everywhere else, too, finds them hanging from front porches, sees them on t-shirt logos, in the way reflected light slides across the kitchen ceiling. Giggle giggle, he says. Twinkle twinkle.

It's cool in the shade still, but warming in the sun. The maples are about fully turned, and the pin oaks are throwing their fingers of leaves down everywhere here to the park. I'd say we're still more green than anything else, but we're moving hard toward peak season here on the flats. The colors are muted this year. That either means a lot of rain or not enough. The gauge has been cracked since late last winter, so we're going to have to content ourselves with not knowing for sure, though an easy guess says not enough. The easy guess is always not enough, isn't it?

Off-season discount strawberries over there on the kitchen counter. Pot of coffee half-full. Midmorning breakfast. Stack of bills and paperwork. The Toad at school in his train overalls. An ache in my left knee. This is the last of October, friends and fans of weather. Don't miss it. Take note. Remember for next year.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cool Down.

We went to the mountains and brought back a truer autumn. Here is how it happened: Saturday morning we leave the shirtsleeved cabin—maybe I exaggerate, but it wasn't anything like chilly—and drive the dog and the Toad to the top of the state park up there in 24363. Down where we were staying it was surely upper fifties, maybe low sixties. Top of the mountain it was mid-forties with a forty-mile-an-hour wind. The Toad squinted into the wind, teared up, had questions. The dog lit out for Katahdin or Springer, one. I was ready to follow. AMR said settle down, said get back in the car, said we can stay, but we can't stay here.

We hiked it the next day in a slightly lesser wind and with maybe ten or twelve extra degrees.

And now, burnt offerings sufficiently offered, we've survived the drive back down into the Piedmont, back into our lives, back into another season, and then another. Monday afternoon saw eighty October degrees home in 2740X, but Tuesday and Wednesday brought a not-quite chilly rain, and where we land, finally, is here, Friday morning, leafblowers buzzing on both sides of the shed and a fire in the woodstove, the call to the firewood dudes on the to-do, a colder overnight here than any we saw up there. Actual hat weather, if not hat-and-coat. A bigger pot of coffee. The heat kicked on in the house as a nod to AMR. And the Toad. And the dog, not yet fully possessed of her winter coat and curled into a spot the size of a dinner plate on the sofa. And, hell, me, I guess, though if I lived alone I'd be toughing it out, trying to prove something—but to who? Or whom?

It's a dusty fall we're having thus far, none of the electric colors you'd hope for, if you were foolish enough to hope. But it is still and now fall all the same, leaves in the gutters, on the roofs. Time to switch modes, make ready in new ways. Time to bring out my grandfather's old rake. Hey, October. Hey, little fire. Hey, boots and flannel. Hey, jacket with the windows down on the way into work. Always one more thing to prove.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Quo Vadis?

We may have perfected this grand experiment: It's glued to seventy degrees on the front porch here in 2740X, a high blue cloudless sky and not really all that much breeze. The crickets are three hours early. The squirrels are hollering. The Toad, vaccinated, sleeps. AMR's just off to work. I am not. I have The Toad's nap to fill and then a half-cooked plan to walk him, should he wake happy, the mile up past the high school to one of the bevy of new pun-based frozen yogurt shops that somehow sprung up in this town between now and the last time I was paying attention. Yotopia. Yotastic. Yophrates. Yo Mama. These are by-the-ounce-type places, fresh mangoes and kiwis in clear bins and a wall of soft-serve levered machines full of flavors that taste nearly like what they're named. The Toad favors these kinds of places. He favors yogurt, favors fruit. I favor The Toad. Ergo, Etcetera: The motto of our little university here on the knoll of this wee hill.

I need to mow the lawn.

I need to do many things, really—need to get ready for all the everybody who's coming to visit this child over the next however many weekends, need to get the flowerbeds turned and pansied, need to think about getting daffodils and tulips in on time for the first time in however many seasons, need to consider a quick crop of greens, need a list of the things (floor, trim, primer, paint) that still must be done to the writing shed, need to spend new time at the desk. The book found a happy home, and now, like always, it needs tearing down and piecing back together. So too, it seems, did and does my mental health. A novel might be the opposite of a forecast. You only get 24 hours for the latter. For the former, you get damn near all the hours there are. Some days this is the best thing there is. Others, you wish you were a ballplayer, wish all those folks had come to see you do one discrete thing in one sharp moment in time.

The downhill mouse's swamp sunflowers are blooming. Seems late this year, but the policy around here holds no matter what: we will take anything blooming at just about any time.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Old Friend.

Cooler today than they thought it would be, says my money, even if my money never saw a thermometer or a website or the six-o'clock local news. Still: I chose ballcap over watchcap, and though, yeah, it was firmly in the sixties, I could've gotten away with what I would have preferred—and how many times, in any situation, can you say that? The humidity must have been bottomed out in the teens. The breeze was up. Windows-down to and from the puppet show made me happy for long sleeves, for the heat of the engine block leaking through the uninsulated sheet metal. We'll be warm again, surely. We always are. But I'm ready to say that we've rounded the corner, that the window just off the pillow on my side of the upstairs bed stays open until the first freeze, that, friends and fans of weather, we have hit autumn. The critters say it, too: The dog slept last night on the sofa, tail curled over her nose. The squirrels, so ground-bound and gathering last week, seem to be treetopped and insulating now, making ready. The cats do whatever cats do.

Fresh sweet potatoes and fresh garlic tonight, roasted and perfect. Beets. Dark beer. A pork chop. Green onions. October. Holy hell it was a long time coming.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Early Gift.

It's already well past fifty out there, but I left the building cool overnight so I could do what I'm doing now: listen to the pop-fizz of a very small fire made from the remnants of the cedar siding and a few medium sticks the maple spent the summer throwing into the lawn. The stove's ticking slowly through its paces. These sounds: not since April. I missed it, I missed it, I missed it. I had The Toad in hats over the weekend. Real hats. I had me in hats, too. And flannel. And jeans. This will not last. It's too soon. But that's no reason not to enjoy what we've been handed here. Don't use real firewood yet, in other words, but do head off into the yard to see what other useful deadfall might be out there.