Displaced Autumn

Fri, 12/02/2016 - 10:15am

In the damp, sun-deprived days of late fall and early winter — and in winter's cold — I sometimes walk into my kitchen solely to feel the sun pouring through the south facing windows. Of late, at a certain time of day, that short trip involves stepping over a big golden dog who lies in the pool of sunny warmth like a great golden cat. 

Today it is gray, there is no sun, and Autumn is at my feet, and, of course, in my way, again.

It is not unseasonably cold by the thermometer, but any late November day without sun is cool and raw. The radar shows a great glob of green, rain all around us, that doesn't seem that interested in falling heavily from the clouds.

It rained yesterday and last night, from the south-southeast, hitting those windows with a sound that carried the same chill as does the wail of a winter gale. The water sheeted on the glass and filled the air, and cut off the reassuring view of the town, easy to mold to the season, the green light of the great lighthouse on the bluff blinking in the distance, above the white and gold colors of the harbor and the blinking reds of the microwave and cell towers. It was simply black last night, a most non-reassuring abyss out there beyond the immediate noise. 

I had finally come down with one of those horrid but-this-has-to-be-more-than-a-cold colds that have plagued me as long as I can remember, several times a year, then, like a miracle I dared not speak aloud, stopped after a particularly long siege in the fall of 2013, two three-week stints, broken by not more than a few days' respite. 

I remember the time with such certainty as Autumn was a puppy, and I knew the second round was starting as I talked to someone in a parking lot in the cool fall air, the sweet, then-compliant creature at the end of a red leash gaining the attention only a fluffy baby golden dog can.

Three years later she has developed a greater attachment than I realized to the chair I favor in my living room. Yes, she is usually there when I leave her home, alone, inside, and she rarely makes an effort to get herself down before I open the door, as though she is hoping at the last minute I will turn around and leave again — unless she has been into something she knows she should not have been and is at the door, ready to rush outside, thinking, perhaps, I will not associate the chewed bottle cap with her. 

All this time I have thought she was happy to see me when she danced around the yard when I returned; perhaps she was just waiting to be let inside, closer to the chair.

Even yesterday, when I gave in to being wrapped in blankets and sipping tea while I watched crime dramas on the television I rarely watch, and never in daytime, when Autumn whimpered and fussed I thought she wanted attention, more playtime.

No, I realized when I got up to refill my cup, she just wanted to be in that chair.

I know she is bored. There is a tattered rope somewhere, a length of knotted red and black and white that has been inside and outside, has sat in the rain and, last time Autumn brought it inside, had been buried in dirt, and carried that heady smell of earth newly-turned. It moves from room to room, to be left wherever she somehow knows I will soon be walking, that tangle of fraying fibers and with it real bones, now empty of the marrow that filled them when they came from the market. 

The bones she buried as well; I thought at first she'd merely hidden them, but they would appear in the yard, looking like little logs. Later I realized I had only reinforced her hoarding instinct by supplying her more bones and ropes as the first disappeared, creating an illusion of plenty. 

It is almost December as I write and the sky will be dark at five, quickened by the fact of there having been no sun, no bright blue skies all day, no light lingering above the tree line to the southwest. The sunsets will not come more than two minutes sooner than today, my mantra of early December. 

There are decorations in town, Rebecca with her usual Yule finery; evergreens hanging from poles, where for years well-intended but ultimately impractical lights hung. Other towns have them, the catalogs proclaimed, but other towns do not have a front street open to the east, and the one at an angle to it is a wind tunnel in winter. Now, there are real Christmas lights in town, not just my imagined placement of those there the year round, strings of big bulbs brightening the doors and windows of shops and staving off the sunset that comes even earlier to that east facing street. The Lobster Pot Tree is a glory in daytime, a wonder of the tools of a working industry crafted into a tiered green cake, and at night shining in the dark. It was serving as a backdrop for group photos every time I went past it over the long Thanksgiving weekend; visitors, mainly, I saw, making me wonder how many images of this homespun New Englandy tradition, already firmly established in a few short years, were sailing across the country, perhaps the globe.

There are garlands and candles in windows and red ribbons and soon there should be a second lighted tree on the lawn of the church at what would be the end of Water Street if our streets had any sense to them, a topic of complexity for another day.

Autumn is fussing, again, and I wonder if it is about her chair or something she senses about to rise from the swamp, or by Christmas decorations.