30. November 2004 · Comments Off on Fall into Winter: The Perfect Day · Categories: Domestic, General

Fall, the most gloriously transient, fleeting time of the year is most especially welcomed in South Texas. The brutal summer heat looses its’ death-grip, afternoon sunshine falls like a golden benison, and the nights are cool and breezy. All over the city, is the echo of windows being opened, and the sounds of children’s voices coming from the scratch game of toss or basketball at the end of the cul-de-sac is not masked by the roar of the air conditioning compressor fan.

Here, the leaves shred out gradually from the trees, not in a spectacular rush of color, not like the mountain aspens and sycamores in Ogden, when Blondie and I lived in Utah— a great golden blaze against the grey wall of the Wasatch Front— which lasted only a week or so, and fleetingly carpeted the ground with gold, like a vision of Tir nan Og or the mallorn wood of Lothlorien. Our winter here does not usually include snow either; not for us the vivid spectacle of a certain small maple tree, which grew next to the old base library at Misawa Air Base, and whose leaves in fall turned the color of blood and hang on to the branches for a good while, well after the first winter snows blanketed the ground in pure white. Dark red, long-fingered maple leaves blazed against the white sugar snow, one season into the next without a pause.

This last Sunday was a perfect day, perfect shirtsleeve fall weather; warm in the sunshine, a hit of chill in the shade, perfectly balanced between the two seasons like the sulpher-yellow butterfly balanced on stalk of fuzzy purple Mexican sage blossoms. I walked around my neighborhood at midday… so many people out mowing lawns, the chorus of suburbia must be the sound of a power mower, the scrape of a rake gathering leaves, the snick of clippers. A man out in the street expertly hurls a football to two boys who catch it, fumbling and toss it back to him; on another two boys and two girls are tossing a baseball across the street, from one sidewalk to the other.

At that house, a man is bringing plastic tub of Christmas ornaments out of the garage, and strings of icicle lights are uncoiled on the lawn. Farther down the block, another man pegs a series of giant candy canes along the edge of the lawn and walkway, linking them together with a string of lights. A stack of decorated wreaths here, another skein of lights being attached to the roof-edge by a woman on a ladder. An older teenage boy brings out a wire-form deer out of the garage— there may be a whole flock of them pastured on this lawn by next morning. One of my other neighbors has a flock of penguins in felt caps, made from tall bleach bottles, who settle on his lawn around an igloo decorated with tinsel every year.

The rituals of suburbia, the rites of the season, on that one perfect day between fall and winter; I ought to be at home, baking a loaf of whole-wheat bread, writing my Christmas letters, packing up the gifts to be mailed to my sisters’ children, to William, and to my parents…. But I linger outside, relishing this one perfect day, reluctant to go inside, not while the sky is a pure, clear blue arch over head, and the air is mild, and butterflies dance around the spires of sage.

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