Thursday, October 7, 2010

Aged in Autumn

Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn. (Elizabeth Lawrence)

She was a small woman, white from head to toe, hunched up in a shawl even though the afternoon breeze, smoke-scented and tired, was warm. She was old––perhaps in her mid-80's, maybe more––and tiny, but her eyes were like fierce sparks and her face glowed with the low afternoon sun. She did not move from her bench under the reddening tree but when Duncan and I stepped past her she smiled and made a cooing noise in her throat. She watched him sniff the long grass for bunnies and the leavings of other dogs who march the trail along the edge of the lake. He was indifferent to her but she did not take her eyes from him.

"Hello," I said.

"There is something," she said. "About a dog and a lake." Her voice, soft and tinny though it was, was lyrical in its rising and falling.

"Yes, there certainly is," I replied. "Did you have a dog?"

She smiled and even though she was watching Duncan dance around me on the trail her eyes were far away. "A long time ago," she said. "A long way from here."

She was still there an hour later when we'd made the long loop around the lake. The sun had dipped lower in the sky and her face caught the red and amber light. She smiled when she saw us.

"Lovely evening," I said.

She nodded. "Every evening is lovely to a dog." She watched Duncan and as he approached, slow and careful, she let go her shawl and reached out a curled fist to touch his nose. He sniffed her, gave her knuckle a quick lick and then laid down in front of the bench at her feet. And there we stayed, watching the light fade from the lake, sitting in silence but not uncomfortable in it.

I remember more dearly autumn afternoons in bottoms that lay intensely silent under old great trees. (C. S. Lewis)

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