The Block Island Times

Arrival of Autumn

Sep 28, 2013

It has been like this for years, I do not go off-Island for months then twice in a week. This time it has been three times in 10 days which may have set a new bar and one way too high at that.

Summer is over by every measure, gone in a split second on a Sunday afternoon. Today the morning air is warm and sunny, but with a new sharpness and the look of the land is decidedly different, altered in these days I have been preoccupied by a different computer and other changes.

It was an especially hot day in July that I lay under the old maple tree in the yard and realized all around me leaves were falling on the grass; they have been falling for over two months from that tree. It is hard to believe there are any left but there are plenty. It is an increasingly fragile lace against a sky pale with moonlight but it is a long way yet from the skeletal fingers that scratch the night heavens.

There are never so many of them fallen that there is a lasting blanket; the wind is my friend in this particular arena, and this is a country dooryard, not a suburban lawn. They blow only into the open spaces around me not into a neighbor’s dominion.

It is sunny and beautiful but fall-morning cool and was even cooler earlier which I know thanks to the fluffy puppy sleeping at my feet, the one who was quiet all night but began to make I-want-to-go-out noises as soon as she heard me stir. The one who kept me out for just long enough to upend my initial I-am-going-back-to-bed plan. The same who has me thinking for the first time in memory that the ever later dawns of this post-equinox quarter may not be a bad thing — for this year only.

It had not been my intention to mention her appearance in my life in this space for a week or two but her introduction on The Block Island Times Facebook page undid those intentions.

She came on the 22nd of September, the Autumnal Equinox, another one of those days everyone seems to think always falls on the 21st when it simply does not, any more than its partner in March or either of the Equinoxes. More accurately, I went to get her with the help of a friend driving up to Northfield on one of these increasingly rare long boat days. The destination was north and elevated and we literally went up into fall, into a part of the region where the foliage is turning to flame, where the term Nature’s Paintbrush could have originated. Trees along the highway, still robust and green, displayed patches of red and orange, not unlike dabs of pigment on a canvas.

The neighborhood, once located, was gentle, the street one where cars still slow for people and dogs. It is easy to image the edges of the softly lined pavement under an avalanche of fallen leaves rustling under the feet of children. It reminded me of the house from which my first dog came, from the puppies sleeping inside in a pen in living space that will be reclaimed now that the whole litter is gone to the dad who without thought lay on the floor to speak to the pup.

That first one came in the early May when the shad was in full bloom; this dog, this Autumn (or Autumn September Ball if I go with a friend’s goofy suggestion which to my amazement has gained favor with everyone to whom I reported “ . . . says I should call her . . .”) arrived at the waning end of the season of long light and warm air. The knotweed that was tall and new that long ago spring has long gone to seed but is yet leafy and green. I recall an old game and break off a stalk and lead the puppy, leaping and tumbling, down the road and wonder idly that there is a real use for this invasive. She is totally absorbed by the swaying greenery which is only a stripped stalk by the time we reach the end of my road and turn back.

The prospect of another dog, an opportunity sprung upon me in a now-or-never circumstance, sent me back almost three years to the time my last one, my Mist, left. It was, to my amazement, almost four years. It was the time I fled to northeastern Connecticut, to the haven - in both thought and reality - of supportive friends who lived in an old house sturdy and strong against the late fall wind and cold. Once home I wrote “For days we watched the snow and in weaker moments concocted methods of capturing Mist and taking him home, of building a fortress of a fence and keeping the world out and us in. It is a defense of the broken-hearted” and sent the worlds out to a captive audience, that group of stalwarts who read every word in the Block Island Times all winter. It felt a bit melodramatic but now I know what seemed absurdly self-indulgent at the time hardly scratched the surface — or plumbed the depths.

When I was still on the boat with my new charge I got a call from other friends wishing me well. I cannot help but think of their dog recently lost, their sweet black lab who led a very sad life until she was rescued, and found her life as completely turned as a dog’s could be. She was a little lady and would have been a good example for Autumn, I am sorry it was not meant to be. My dark and empty house already felt a little less so when I came home to find a container of dog treats on the step, a welcome gift from a well wisher.

Meanwhile, down on the edge of the swamp the Pesky Pond Troll sat up straight. Something was not quite right . . .

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