Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Signs of Autumn

A rumpled gray sky shadows me on my morning walk, and clear rain-washed air fills my lungs. Each day the changes become more apparent: Winter is coming.

For now, however, I’ll revel in fall. A slight breeze wraps around my moving limbs. The thermometer on the back porch reads 58 F and a couple light layers along with a brisk walk keeps me warm but not too warm. The smell of black coffee drifts up from my blue insulated cup.

almost turning

This is how I’ve come to start my day. Mind blank, rote routine of feeding cats, brewing coffee, brushing teeth, washing face, getting dressed – then out to soak up some world. Sometimes it’s my neighborhood, sometimes a wander on the nearby bike path through open field or along the running river.

As I go, words begin to swirl in my head. They gather into rough structures – character thoughts, scene ideas, general notions of what I want to address on the page later – notions I left the page with the day before. But for the first couple miles of the walk I keep pulling my attention back to here. To now.

grapes concord To pumpkins and scarecrows inhabiting front porches though it’s still September. To the echinacea and rudbeckia fading away to become “winter interest” in another couple months. To the leaves turning on locust trees, Virginia creeper, the grass called Northern Lights, burning bushes, and the occasion grape leaf. Most other trees only hint at the blizzard of yellow soon to blanket lawns and gather along curbs. Shiny crabapples above are echoed by orange rose hips below. Mums hunch in tidy domes rich with jewel-toned color, happy with the snap in the air, and the stubborn Russian sage and sunset hyssop are still going strong.

apples A hint of smoke from an overnight fire reaches my nose. Piles of cut firewood grow daily beside houses. Vs of Canada geese honk overhead. A dozen fat squirrels congregate beneath a horse chestnut tree, busily munching. A young boy walks a leashed Nubian goat on the other side of the street, and we wave to each other. A familiar gray cat runs out, purring, to twine in my feet, begging me to stop and scritch under its chin.

Laughing, I do. I am well trained in this regard.

The second half of the walk either covers territory I’ve already been over or takes me through a kind of Stepford neighborhood with seemingly identical houses, precisely cut lawns, and predictable landscaping. Other than the vista of the foothills nudging the clouds on the western horizon, my interest fades from my surroundings and begins to tend to all those words that have been gathering beneath my conscious notice.

I arrive back home with a clear focus on how to start the day’s writing and where to go from there. It’s a very good way to start the morning.