Tuesday, September 19, 2006

First Breaths of Autumn

It's an absolutely beautiful day outside. This is the sort of weather that always makes me want to jump in the car and drive west. I'll be doing that this next weekend, so I hope it holds. It's warm but fairly dry, and not nearly as hot as it has been. The sky is clear and bright. The sun is golden. There's that certain subtle something in the air that stirs up memories just below the surface of my mind. Texas fall does exist. It's just as subtle. The trees don't change into firey oranges or dazzling golds. It won't get really cold for months probably. But when you grow up here, you learn to know autumn by the way it smells.

It smells like football games with the afternoon sun slanting over the field. It smells like a new year of school settled and underway, with all the busy comings and goings of college life. It smells like carving pumpkins and dressing up to walk over the grass fields at Ren-Fest. It smells like family gatherings and a drawing inward for thought and quiet reflection.

As I walked to my car this morning, images rose up in my imagination like a wave that rushed over me. I was on the field in orange and black out at Fredericksburg for a marching competition. I was on top of Fondren library to see the lunar eclipse through a telescope. I was on a trailer loaded with hay in a black cat costume driving through a neighborhood trick-or-treating. I was reading Plato on a tree limb before musical rehearsal. I was looking over Canyon Lake from the porch of a three-story split level with the smell of Thanksgiving turkey and spiced pies drifting out of the windows.

This tang in the air makes me both sad and eagerly expectant. Autumn starts the end of the year. But when the year ends, a new one begins. A lot of beginnings mean we have to leave something behind. Something we know, we love, we feel safe with. All the autumns I can remember seem tinged with this strand of excitement and sadness. What is it that I'm always leaving behind? What is it that is always just over the horizon?

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