Tuesday, August 29, 2006

With witness I say this.

Elegaic is not the wrong word for the way I'm feeling this evening. Walking back to the officehouse after a late-afternoon meeting, knowing that my day was still just beginning, I realized how cool the day had become, and how grey. I realized that I should have taken myself up on the idea of grabbing that sweater that I abandoned on the porch two nights ago and rediscovered this morning as I was leaving for class. I realized that at some point during the evening, I'd need to stroll home to put on warmer clothing. And the idea seemed strange, which led me to yet another iteration of a realization I'd started having earlier: that once again I have become so acclimated to a season that signs of its incipient end come as a shock.

After office hours this afternoon, I packed up and headed out to town for my mail and (I thought) a coffee. Instead, I scored the last quesadilla lunch at the coffeeshop and read a bit of Jonathan Lethem's article about Bob Dylan in the new Rolling Stone (which I have a subscription to for reasons that I can no longer recall). The day kept threatening rain outside. A man started making the rounds of the coffeeshop, asking everyone in sight whether the red Volvo outside were his, were hers, were the property of anyone in the shop: his child had just e-mailed from Florida to say that he'd bought the same model car, and this man wanted to talk about its five-cylinder engine and sporty red styling, such an incongruity in Gambier. Someone walked in with a brightly colored sweater slung over his shoulders, preppy style, and I thought of my young friend who affected that look in jest one evening this summer, just to see what people would say. (And that, in turn, had made me think of a former, somewhat self-loathing somebody who despised hipsters and would have growled unfairly, in response to either of these young men's slinging sweaters over their shoulders, "Fuckin' hipster.")

Soon, in other words, I found myself overfull of not only the delicious (cheese, potatoes, beans, guacamole) but also the borderline-banal. But heading back to the officehouse, I realized that I have been meaning to photograph the strange preautumnal fruits of the trees whose flowers I showed you all spring. I don't understand these trees' putting forth fruit now, I thought to myself, forgetting pumpkins, forgetting corn, forgetting fall harvests altogether. Why fruit just before fall? I got out the camera and took many pictures.

And now, much later, I think to pull out my Audubon guide to trees, wherein I discover that the trees I have called cherry trees are in fact some variety of crab apple--probably, given my location, sweet crab apple, the common crab apple of the Ohio Valley. Those spring flowers were apple blossoms. Apples are another fruit whose fall harvest I've forgotten. The temptation is too much for me to resist: how do you like those apples? Looking at the signs before me now, I wonder how I didn't know before that these trees would bear this fruit.

Walking home around 9 p.m. to change my summer skirt for a pair of jeans and to add a sweatshirt to my top, I saw what may turn out to have been my last firefly of the season. I watched for a second blink, but there was none, and suddenly I was back in the summer again, thinking about the nights of fireflies, the nights of trees full of them, of fields and foliage illuminated by their syncopated blinkings, of their phosphorescence streaking my vision as I watched landscapes melting away from the backseats of speeding cars in which I rode. I think of the uneven waves of them at which I gasped, in which I sat, at which I marveled. I fear the blink of an eye that will take my days away from me now, four months at a time, until I watch for that second blink and there is none.

And so, just so, did the signs of fall's arrival started turning up and down all around me today--first falling leaves, cartwheeling through the open air; first rednesses, appearing without fanfare at the fringes of the burning bush; first full realization of just how early the darkness settles over my village now; first bite in the evening air hinting at nights when I will wish I'd driven to the office, if only so as not to have to walk home with my chin crammed into my coat collar. Had I driven tonight, I would have missed the hurrying whisper of the leaves that will soon be gone, and the newly resumed nightsounds of our returned students, and the loveliest startle of my day: two shapes on the lawn of a dormitory, right under the window of the room where I lived so many years ago, suddenly resolving themselves into doe and fawn, feeding near midnight. Somewhat uncharacteristically, the doe was the placid one tonight. It was her younger companion, the one who hasn't gone through a fall yet, who was unnerved enough by my sudden appearance that she stopped eating and watched me as I stopped walking to watch her.


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