Come December

Sat, 12/05/2015 - 7:00pm

When I come home and open the door to find Autumn anxious to go out it is not, I have learned, because she “has to go out,” rather because she has gotten into something she should not have touched and she knows she has been some variation of bad.

She must think if she is out of sight I will not associate her with whatever is in pieces on her destruction pad, the hooked rug in the dining room, that I will somehow believe it was the work of another entity, the wind, the non-existent cat, the always-lurking Pond Troll. 

Yesterday, out she sped as I walked in, making me wonder whatever I had failed to move out of her easy reach before leaving earlier. Would it be yet another gnawed pencil or plastic shards that once were a pen? Or would it be a knife carelessly left near the edge of the counter, now with a gnawed but usable handle, or her perennial favorite, post-it notes, little pieces of colored paper each with a band of some apparently tasty stick-um?

There was a lone box lying on the rug, a carton of the soy milk I have a bad habit of leaving on the counter after pouring its contents on my oatmeal.

It was oddly intact, a fact I took to be her indictment of soy milk before remembering she will gladly lap up any left in the bowl in summer when I invariably put too much on cold cereal. More likely, I am now thinking, it was an indication that she had only gotten to it an instant before she heard me drive up. 

Autumn also has more important concerns of late. She is still guarding the dirt-infused marrow bone she dug up a few weeks ago, and has added to her stash of precious belongings one of the rope toys that disappeared in the spring. She has had three of them, braids of heavy, knotted white and tan and black. One vanished. Another I rescued a few times before seeing her carry it off into the brush of the front field.

The third I vowed would be the last. I monitored her, then in the heady days of spring forgot about her antics when I was first leaving the doors open to the weather. Down the road she went in her I-am-doing-something-I-shouldn’t-be-doing prance before disappearing into that same field, following one of those deceptive deer paths that appear passable but quickly turn to a trap of brambles.

Then one day not long ago she was running around the yard tossing about something brown which I first thought, as I always do, to be some horrid creature she had captured — never mind that field mice, little field mice, little not-fully-grown field mice, are the only things I have even seen her catch. It was one of these knotted ropes, monochromatic in its dirty wetness, but completely intact. 

It has been drying to a faded black, a tan there for the looking, and some once-I-was-white hue. Autumn does have me wondering what else will reappear, what forgotten toy or random item I never realized was missing. I think of another golden dog barking crazily when the neighbor plowed a patch of ground; his stash of rawhide twists had been uncovered.

Earlier, my dog was sleeping on the floor; now she has claimed what she seems to think is “her” chair in the living room. The forecast reads that today “is forecast to be warmer than yesterday” and while yesterday was colder by the thermometer this raw wind from the east negates any numerical increase and Autumn has shown little interest in staying out in the sporadically rainy gray. When I opened the door to find her lying against the threshold she did offer a perfunctory little “woof” at whatever it is she imagines to be there before coming back inside, her warning to the world that she will remain on watch. 

This morning, the scattered green on the radar, some of it dark with ominous yellow patches lies south of the Rhode Island coast and a great solid blob of wet is inching up from south and west of New York City, a horror movie creature approaching slowly but steadily, one that is weirdly impossible to outrun.

Raw and gray it is as we move into “meteorological winter” this first day of December when, for the first time in many months, I am looking to the temperatures on the mainland for solace; it is warmer here, as it is cooler in summer. Earlier predictions of another season of brutal deep cold have been replaced by talk of “milder than normal” and I think, as I always do, what will be will be.

And as much as I chart these things, as much as I know full well the patterns of the seasons, it is a shock, this first day of December, to realize the sun will not be setting more than a minute and some seconds earlier than it does today before it hits a plateau where, by the rounded minutes of the easy almanacs, it stays for a week before turning back. It will be for awhile at the expense of the morning, although there is some consolation in the fact that the latest sunrise will not be as late as it was the last days of October.

I think of the old adages, all variations on days getting longer, cold getting stronger, and wonder if we will ever get past the darkness of those very Puritans the settlers of this place sought to escape back in the seventeenth century, this inability to forgo seeking a dark cloud to shroud any silver until it is a mere lining.

Today, though, when I hear the furnace come on I choose to think not of the cost of oil rather of drier air that has finally shrunk the old door between the living room and hall back into its frame.