Most of us, I think, grew up with the convenience — and myth — of the seasons shifting on the 21st of a given month. I do not remember when I learned this was not always the case but I know I was still in school.
This year I needed hear only once that the autumnal equinox fell on the 22nd of September to remember the date. It was the same the year a friend drove me to the north, bound for Massachusetts to fetch a golden puppy, a sweet fur ball who slept the whole of the way back to the boat, with one stop in Wakefield to buy things like a tiny collar and a little dish and to coax her to perform a task on a patch of grass beside the building.
Eight years, and every one of them I think the same thing of the time with my dog, my Autumn, that I do of summer, it was a lifetime and a blink of an eye.
Her realm here has changed in that time. The yards were cut and a swath down the middle of the north pasture, there were deer paths that provided her access to the back lot that goes out into the pond.
Most of all, she was timid, less inclined to adventure — at least until this summer. She stayed pretty much in sight, within the confines of overgrown fields, following, I realized, deer tracks even where I did not see them, always the same diagonal across that pond lot, occasionally chasing a creature with a white flag of a tail.
Now, she is on the floor, moving from spot to spot, thumping as she relocates, usually with a great dog sigh.
Yesterday, the last full day of summer, real, technical summer, not the meteorological season that neatly aligns with the beginnings and ends of months, but the last full day before the equinox, was one of those now-it’s-here-now-it’s-gone days. The climate changed from here to town and back, the sun came out to slide behind the clouds, to find a hole though which it could peek.
It seemed peaceful, a good month to visit, most remarked, happy that they had decided upon September over July and August. There is a bit of beach traffic on the Mansion Road, still, but when folks came to visit the horses at midday, it was just glorious, all the summer rains leaving the fields green, before the usual cooling round of the latest summer days.
Out in town — I wish sometimes we had a town, from a movie or television show, or even my childhood with its credit union and telephone office and hardware store and market and more, spaces emptied and gradually gone over to seasonal enterprises — out in
town one lady from another seaside place expressed disappointment that it was so busy here where she’d hoped the additional step of the boat ride would diminish the traffic she experienced at home.
It was a beautiful day, we can feel the vise of winter darkness in the quickened sunrises and sunsets, the former approaching seven as the latter backs away from it.
Later, when people were around, again, trying to ascertain the latest route of Falki the Icelandic Escape Artist, I wandered off with Autumn, just to look at the colors and think, again, that we were experiencing the last afternoon of another summer. It was not until later
that I realized how my soft puppy had grown, her hair darkening over time, until she blends into the season for which she was named.
The fields are varying shades of green, the goldenrod and milkweed darker along the edges, and probably over the wall old-fashioned bayberry and shad are still in leaf.
It is the water willow, the woody vine that rims the ponds and is always the last to green and the first to burnish, that is a soft shade of Autumn. My dog, who refused to pose, decided to bark at what I at first thought might be a deer on the neighbor’s hill but it proved inanimate as is the case with the source of many of her alerts, although of late it has been moon shadow.
A few years ago, she would have had to walk through briars and tall weeds to the wall, likely following one of those deer trails, to reach the wall and. . . bark.
I hadn’t much patience, yesterday. I had found earlier in the day in the grass of the yard a pen, a black plastic, not split open but no longer useable. I have been careful for years, losing a laundry list of hard plastic things I held in my hand, to a gnawing puppy grown
to chewing dog, with no, virtually no interest in any other toys excepting ropes. “Eight years!” I kept telling her as though she would understand.
So, she sat and barked and I wondered at the colors, knowing they last deeper into the fall than I expect.
Old habits float up and I found myself listening to sports radio out of New York, not that I ever cared about sports, excepting the requisite New England position on New York teams, I just loved the energy.
Then I did it, I went and checked the MLB standings. It has been a long time since I paid any attention, and longer still since spring brought long days and hope, fall darkness and despair.
So, when I looked at the sports news tonight and saw a Mets/Red Sox score of 5 to 12 I took it for granted that the 5 belonged to Boston. After all, this is New England, Game Six was only thirty-five years ago.
And fall did come, in the afternoon, more dreary than sunny, not quite raining but not quite clear, on a lousy wind, which to me is anything not definitively southwest.
It’s only a Wild Card chase, where could that lead...