Touched by autumn’s finger

North Cascades solo backpacking trip, 2009

North Cascades solo backpacking trip, 2009

A low pressure system came down from British Columbia, had us in a headlock all week, the house around 60 with the windows open in the morning, you could almost see your breath. I was out in the dark one night and thought I smelled campfire or a wood stove burning something sweet, the dampness of fall. The kids found cat collars in the eagle’s nest that must have fallen from a nearby tree, that’s where the lost cats turn up. Our neighbor at the end of the road lost theirs to a coyote, heard a thump against the slide doors one night and there it was, spit out on the glass. Ours uses the abandoned neighbor’s yard to crap, you can watch her dig a hole under the cedar tree and squat there stiffly, her tail like a question mark wriggling, and I have to laugh, it’s less for me to clean up. When the dog’s outside in the morning it’s with an air of suspicion she takes to the ground sniffing, her hackles up. Opening the hood on the coffee maker and thinking that’s how I must look on the inside, brown in places I shouldn’t be and less there than you’d think.

Rather than cut back my coffee consumption I experimented with drinking more, filling the water above the 8-cup line and drinking most of it, but like any kind of binge it always ends the same, a bit out of control and shameful, the attention span like pancake batter, makes me hard on the kids.

I finally broke down to buy deodorant, having used the last stick from Germany, that mom bought me shortly after we arrived that summer, after I boasted I’d stopped using it, didn’t need it โ€” and mom didn’t say anything but just grimaced, and the next day presented me with a bag from the Apotheke and like a good son I listened and used it, got sentimental about it even, tried to find the same brand in the States but couldn’t,ย tried to see how long I could stretch it.

I guess it’s no mistake men start getting into the blues by their mid 40s, you can start to relate. It’s always bemoaning some loss, the blues. Ginger got shit all over her neck glands and I stopped at the store on the way home for shampoo and treats, cleaned out the bath tub, and the house smelled like wet dog for the next few days, we slept with the windows open.

Mom said she’s going back to the Austrian Alps with Eberhard like we did last year and it made me and Lily sad to remember โ€” and I read a short story by Hemingway he wrote when he stayed at a nearby village there, called Silvretta: it was him in some Alpine chalet drinking and describing how the snow melted the trench outside and how spring skiing sucked and they were sick of it, and then this peasant and the story of how he waited to bring his wife for burial until the snow melted out enough, and she’d died in December, and how her mouth looked off because he’d leaned her body upright in a shed and used it to hold the lantern I guess (her mouth): and I could see Hemingway in that chalet, the rumors of him staying there a few weeks gambling, drinking, skiing, picking up stories like that.

I lay on the bed in the afternoon after a hot shower listening to the bathroom fan, sometime in that place between 1 and 4, and my mind, where all things great and terrible happen, worked on the small details of our schedule, making calculations and re-estimating, and as it did I realized I was chewing the hair beneath my lower lip, I’d really slowed down, really lowered my expectations for how much I need to get done each day.

There was the cooking and the clean up, the goat herding of the kids, the dog and the cat, some houseplants, an old car, checking the litter box, the email box, the devices for charging, the thermostat to see what’s changed. I got in the habit of a daily nap that was not a nap but the idea of one, following a chapter or two in my book. More good times than I can remember. “Ale brewed with Icelandic moss, herbs, kelp and sea salt,” the can says.

I got cranky about something with the kids and they decided to go see a movie and I stayed home and got out the bivy sack and sleeping bag and set it up in the back yard to see tonight if it rains, if it’s really waterproof. Though it’s only August, autumn’s in the waiting room just checking her watch, tapping her toes, waiting for someone to say the word, it’s time.


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16 replies

  1. no matter what we do, or don’t do, time keeps rolling on, as we each see signs of our own ‘fall’ around the corner, we are wistful and yet, expecting it

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Feels like it’s on its way here, too Bill. Just a nip of something in the air, the leaves starting to yellow, hanging tired ly to the trees.
    Love (in a macabre way) the Hemmingway story about the man waiting to bury his wife and using her as a lamp stand. Can’t have the dead hanging around not earning their keep, now can we?
    Great tales as always ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love that nip! I guess it’s the dark minds that like to see things start to end. About that Hemingway story, I was in the Alps last year at this time in a remote part on the Austrian side, and had heard he’d spent time there. It was cool to stumble upon that story yesterday and very macabre, very Hemingway I guess — stuff you can’t make up. Glad you liked the post, thank you. Enjoy your weekend, almost here. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

      • No, you couldn’r make that up – well, maybe Hemmingway could … ๐Ÿ™‚
        There is a pleasure to Autumn, rushing in from the chill to the warm, kicking through the leaves – that low sun you get at that time of year passing through the trees. I confess to loving Spring though – all that potential. Have a great weekend yourself ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The cool weather has helped me get outside and do a little yard work, I’m that much of a precious flower…the direct sunlight wilts me. I went through a deodorant change last year, I decided I was done with all the chemicals and tried four or five natural kinds, I’m back to the chemicals.
    Why is it harder to get stuff done during these long days? I get less writing done, I nap more, and I do less reading when there is light in the sky.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is the kind of summer I fell in love with in Seattle when I moved here 20 years ago. I hardly have to water! I’m a precious flower too, though I did sun myself for about 20 minutes yesterday with my shirt off and a beer, and it was blessed. Harder to get stuff done because you have the impression of so much time it’s nice to wile it away, probably. I’m sensing I’ll be going back to work soon so I’m basking in what may be the last time like this I’ll have for a long time. Nap more = good.

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  4. Around here, the coyotes enjoy snacking on purse dogs which is nice because the cats definitely need more room.

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  5. Still hot as crap down this way, so I’m a little jealous of the autumnal touch you have going. Not sure I’d sleep in our yard right now, though. There’s a mountain lion in the neighborhood, they say. Killed a pony the other night. I’d hate to be dessert!

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  6. I had 8th row tickets behind home plate today at the Rangers game, but it was a 105 on the field, and some guy on tv described it as like sitting in a blast furnace. But that’s okay because those few of us who went had the ballpark pretty much to ourselves, and I couldn’t have afforded those seats any other day. And after four years of Ohio winters, I’ll take 105 over minus five any day. I’m not ready for fall, which is good, because that two week period is still a few months off, and that’s okay by me. Hemingway would’ve liked it here, with his shirt off in the sun and his guns.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. In your 40s, you start becoming more aware of running out of time. But there’s such an allure in just resting in the quiet!


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