I heard on the radio this morning that today was the first day of autumn and it certainly seemed like it could be. The sun had risen but not above the treeline across the street and there was a nip in the air.
As I passed through the wet lands preserve area just across the Mississippi River from my hometown, I saw a heron in the billowing white mist rising from the pond he stood in.
Autumn and spring are my favorite times of year, but I think autumn is my favorite of the two. I am always energized and rejuvinated by the verdant explosion of the dawn of springtime, but there is something in me that prefers the somber days of the season when leaves change color and when even I decide it's actually cool enough to wear a jacket.
There is a certain shift in the spectrum of the glow of the sunset. Instead of the exciting light of the vernal dusk or the buttery gold of the summer sunset, when the sun meets the horizon in the fall the rays that pierce me a sort of melancholy reflection and introspection of the meaning of time and it's passing.
The light of the autumn sunset always causes memories of autumn sunsets of my youth to echo in my mind. Memories of past ages of my life and how different they were- how different I am now. Surely these things aren't actually sad, but I for one can't dwell on such thoughts for long without a touch of nostalgic yearning for the good old days.
Of course, these are the good old days, too. In fact, for me, they are the best days. Part of what has heightened this paradoxical mood within me this season is my son, Isaiah. Seeing him experience and express things that I remember in myself at his age makes a joy of recognition and unity ripple through me no less than a low undertone of pining for my own childhood now remote in the fog of history.
What makes autumn so sweet to me and what makes it my favorite season of all is this irrational admixture of the joyous and morose. Just as in a cake where the secret is the touch of salt that must be present to counterbalance the sugar, the largest and most meaningful emotions to me are those which are a compound of the light and heavy.
Looking back and to the present at once and imagining the future, I consider my place and my rule in the universe and wonder what life has in store for me in days to come. I think about who I am and who I want to become and I especially think about how to best help my son fulfill his potential and become the person he can be.
I also like autumn because the summertime here in the midwest frequently holds me captive with an oppressive malaise from it's humid extremes of heat and when autumn arrives, I am set free with regained energy and motivation- even if that motivation is simply to sit outside instead of inside in the stifling chill of conditioned air.
Today at lunch a good friend at work and I took a walk in what could be described as the perfection of noonday weather. He and I occasionally take a circuit around the lake and buildings and parking lots that are near our building. We sit at opposite corners of the rat's maze of cubes enclosed by the walls we work within and often don't get to speak as much as we'd like. Our walks give us a chance to get some excersize and to communicate a little bit. Today's walk also gave me a great idea.
When I got home I asked Isaiah what he thought he might like to do this evening. He, as I suspected he might, responded that he'd like to watch the rest of Bionicles: The Mask of Light, the video we'd bought him and watched half of last weekend.
"No, Son, I meant something else. How would you like to go to the park this evening?"
"The green tunnel park?"
"OK, the green tunnel park."
"Alright! Then when we get home we can watch rest of The Mask of Light!"
The green tunnel park is what he calls a large, new park close to Ruth's folks house. He calls it that because it has one of those plastic corkscrew slides that no playground is complete without. It is, of course, green and kind of tunnel-like and thus the name.
There are also some of the cartoon animals mounted on big, stiff springs that kids like to rock on. His favorite is a two-seater dinosaur. Ruth and I were sitting on a bench watching him burn up his excess energies from about twenty feet away when we heard him telling the mother that was watching her two year old ride the nearby spring-mounted pelican, that this was not only his t-rex, but that it was the smartest dinosaur ever and they were in a t-rex race and they were going to win "a million dollars and curly fries!".
We then decided to take a walk around the lake at the park. Isaiah had a good time walking and looking at the geese, even though he had a very hard time being quiet.
When we got home I saw our old buddy Tony out in his backyard two houses up the street, so we went over to say hello. Tony rents a room in the house and he used to take care of the yard till "Pops" the old man who owned the house died and his daughter decided to let the other renter do it for less money. Of course, the yard hasn't looked very good since that change.
Tony still takes care of all the flowers and plants, even though he doesn't mow. He doesn't get paid for it, but he'd probably mow for free, too if the daughter wasn't paying the other guy to do a bad job of it.
He told us about all the baby fish in the pond. They were hard to see in the shadows of the early twilight, but we caught a glimpse of them. He also told us to come by and get seeds for spider plants from the large patch we were looking at if we wanted them.
"I didn't even know they was here for the first few years I lived here," he said.
"Pops thought they was weeds. He'd mix up a batch of water and salt like you'd put on a driveway and pour it over this patch here to keep'em from comin' up. He was blind in one eye and he thought everything was a weed."
Isaiah and I bid Tony adieu and went back home to our porch to sit out in the lowering dusk and listen to some jazz, but mosquitoes only allowed us to sit in on a set of two tunes.
Can you guess what happened next?
No, not immediately, but we did get around to watching the rest of The Mask of Light. After that it was bathtime and bedtime for Isaiah.
And now here I sit recounting and pondering and wishing I were more diligent in writing, if only as an aid to my own less than perfect memory. I don't look on this as a journal where I express and analyze my feelings. To me, it's a chronicle of my days- a way to look back and remember. I want it to be here to take away a little (just a little) of the melancholy sting of time when I'm an old man telling my grandchildren about my children when they were young.