Sunday, October 27, would have been Mike’s 58th birthday. It was a perfect, bright blue fall day, trees like those above, in full autumn glory.
Here’s a picture from today, four days later:
One week ago:
October’s beauty is bittersweet: it can’t last. This year we waited through rain and clouds most of the month until a sudden burst of clear skies and blazing color in the last ten days or so. I’ve learned that, except for treating Angelic Daughter to trail rides at stables we only get to once or twice a year, leaf-peeping isn’t a good reason for our “fall excursions.” The colors are always more beautiful at back at home.
Yet something has felt off-kilter about this year’s weather, from polar vortex to spring monsoons, to a bone-dry August and then a sodden September. Everything has been more of whatever it is than usual. Colder, wetter, drier, cloudier. We had very few sparkling clear nights, all year. The crystal black, star-sparkling nights are one of the things I look forward to about winter. I hope that hasn’t changed for good.
Today it feels like someone sped up the film (a terrible idea, and yes, I’m looking at you, Netflix). I’m carving pumpkins when I could be building a snowman. Did someone steal Richard Hendricks’ compression algorithm (Silicon Valley) and apply it to the turn of the seasons?
We’ve had snow on Halloween before, but not like this, that I can remember. Usually, rotten Halloween weather is cold and rainy, with maybe a few fat flakes that don’t stick. But out my window now are 3-4 inches of heavy, sticky wet snow, causing branches to sag and completely covering the yard. It’s not cold enough for snow to stick to the driveway or the walk, but there is enough to discourage any but the most intrepid, determined trick-or-treaters. We’ve had none, and the sanctioned window for ringing doorbells is closing. I foresee a night of appallingly self-indulgent over-consumption of uncollected chocolate -followed by a 30 minute full-body dumbbell burner guilt workout tomorrow morning.
There really is nothing spooky or eerie or creepy or Halloweenish about snow. I lit the Jack-o-Lanterns anyway, but I’m not really feeling the “door between worlds” effect. Angelic Daughter wants S’mores, and snow makes a great backdrop to initiate the fireplace for the season. If I can get a fire started, that is, because it was windy, and the logs in the small wood rack on the front porch got coated in an inch or so of snow. I foresee an expletive-filled evening and the waste of an entire box of matches. But I’ll get it going.
Snow will melt off tomorrow, but the glory that is October is done and gone. Smores made indoors in the fireplace won’t capture the crisp, outdoor, sweatery October feeling that Angelic Daughter used to get on an annual school trip to a pumpkin farm, but they will have to do. Each year the autumn flare seems more fleeting than the last. But that’s what makes it glorious, I guess.
I finally sold Mike’s kitchen table, on his birthday. Got ten bucks for it on eBay. The guy who bought it drove an hour to pick it up. I was almost going to give up and donate it somewhere, but I’m glad I got at least something for it. That table was the only material thing, other than books, clothes and a hurricane lamp, that Mike brought with him into our marriage. The guy who bought it asked how long I had it – “27 years” – and acknowledged that it must carry a lot of memories. I did.
Letting go of 27 years worth of memories on Mike’s birthday, the 27th, is something he would have gotten a kick out of, I think, or at least appreciated the symmetry of it.
We have a new dining room table now, but today I put on Mike’s old grey sweater, the one with the growing holes in it that I wear when shoveling or otherwise dealing with outdoor maintenance in cold weather, and smiled. Here’s to you, loves, one season passed and another beginning, wrapped in something that once wrapped you with warmth, and now wraps me in memories.
We hoped that Mike could make it to an October day like last Sunday, to see the blue sky and blaze of leaves as he departed this world for the next. Instead, he died on a sweltering August night. “This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong, to love that well, which thou must leave ere long.”
Tomorrow begins gray November, the ghost of October’s colors whispering only in the gourds and Indian corn of a Thanksgiving to come.
Blowing out the candles in the Jack-o-Lanterns and off to make the fire, I remain,