Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Word on the Tip of the Tongue

November has been uncommonly kind to us this year, warm and mellow, and, as Ken remarked this morning as we stood on the patio looking out across the park, a steaming mug of coffee curled between his cupped hands, the warm lip of a cup of tea pressed to my mouth, "It's like Spring, except for the smell. If I closed my eyes I'd never know it wasn't May." As he said it a warm breeze stirred the myriad leaves which have collected in the gutters and sent them clattering across the deserted street. "And the sound," he added. "The sound is unmistakably Autumn."

Duncan and I rose early. I prepped his raw chicken breakfast, tossed in a load of laundry, took a glance out the window at what can only be described as the most perfect of Autumn mornings: the sun bright but still low, the streets empty and silent, the air unmoving. I leashed him up and we jaunted across the street to the park, which was empty of the usual Sunday morning revelers, even the kids who dress up as medieval warriors and wage sword battles down by the big willow. The time change must've thrown some of them off, which didn't bother me in the slightest. I love the park best when it is wide and open and all ours.

Many of the trees are nearly bare, especially the elms, which cast off their clothing back in September, and now only the Lindens are left, their leaves still thick and mostly green, the ghost of their summer scent lingering in my memory as we pass beneath their slowly thinning canopy. At the top of the hill above the lake, where the city and the foothills spread out before us, the colors are nearly spectacular, with a thousand shades of gold, dwindling reds and the deep almost-gray of the evergreens, all of them pressed against the rich blue of this clear and healthy sky. Looking at the tree-tops from a hill is a bit like studying the slow slide of the clouds across the sky as the eye seeks out patterns and shapes, recognizable forms: a car, a fish breaching the water, grandpa in profile.

Trees in Autumn and the light sifting through them remind me of that first fall after I got my drivers license, when I climbed into my old silver Ford Fairmont on Sunday mornings and drove the quiet streets down by the cemetery, the one place in Pocatello where the trees grow wild and tall and unlike anything else in that faraway corner of the world. With my windows down and the air cool on my knuckles, clutching the steering wheel and singing along to Depeche Mode's album Black Celebration (the most Autumnal album in my entire collection, even twenty-two years after I first bought it) I couldn't help but feel as though I'd missed something, as if it had been within reach, whatever it was, but had slipped away. Every fall since I've felt that way, sad and reflective, unable to grasp what it feels like I should have grasped. Like a word on the tip of the tongue.

I still don't know what it is and I probably never will, but Autumn makes me feel poetic and reflective, only now, with Duncan snorting his way through the leaves, pushing them aside to reach whatever scent lies buried beneath, their familiar churning crunch as we carve a path through them, I feel a little less like sighing and more like dancing.

5 comments:

duncan's internet friend said...

Then dance! Dance like nobody is watching!

Curt Rogers said...

Actually, I think I'll dance like everyone is watching. That sounds like a lot more fun! :)

Anonymous said...

As much fun as dancing naked in the storm, brazening the wind as it howls around you?

duncan's internet friend said...

See how you are?! I can't dance so there is much more joy when people are not watching! I'll applaud for you though...and hoot and holler!

Kevi said...

Last night we had rain and wind so strong that the branches of Pocatello are left almost bare. It made me sad.

Perhaps that is it. Winters' thaw brings life. Spring can freeze some of the buds, but something else will be ready to sprout. Summer can be hot or cool, but it doesn't change its course. But fall, all it takes is one storm, and it is winter-in-waiting.