How It Works
If you are new to this series, allow me to summarize what we are doing here. Every single day - rain, snow, sleet, or life-affirming sunshine - I take my dogs, Maggie and Toby, for a walk around the neighborhood. When we first started this ritual, I would drive them out to the farm owned by my stepson and his wife, and we would walk the farm and neighboring countryside.
Sadly, that stretch of road and countryside saw an influx of new families, so that the countryside is no longer really country but rather semi-urban. And if we must walk along a road with houses, we may as well simply walk through our own neighborhood, so that’s what we’ve been doing for the last year.
Would you like to join us? We begin each of our walks at the edge of the driveway where the pavement ends and the wonders begin.
Cool evenings, sweater-cool, the sun lower on the horizon during the days, noticeably lower, still warming the area, but it takes longer to do so, you know, well past noon before you can shed the light coat and go it with shirtsleeves, perfect weather to kickstart Mother Nature, signal her that it’s time for the color show, the following program is brought to you in living color, by NBC, remember the peacock plumage, back in the late 50’s, early 60’s, God I remember it so clearly, the wonders of color television, replicating the real world, Mom and Dad, me and my dog Pixie, gathered around the console television, watching Bonanza and Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.
And that’s what late September, early October, means to me, the Wonderful World of Color, not manufactured by a camera and digital enhancement, but presented to you, with love, from Isanaklesh, or The Great Mother if you prefer, a dazzling display of oranges and reds, yellows and combinations of the three, free to the public for our enjoyment and inspiration.
A Subtle Transformation
It’s so very easy to miss the beginnings. A birch may send out the first signal, or an elm, possibly a maple, depending upon your location, hard to say who is first, one tree, then two, then three, over the course of a week, along this path, by week’s end a handful or more, Maggie paying no attention to it all, Toby finding the fallen leaves playful items for his amusement, me remembering back to fall afternoons raking large piles of leaves, diving headfirst into the piles, then raking them again, grand fun, at no cost, just a kid and his dog Pixie, passing the time with mindless entertainment, fast forward to today, raking the leaves, watching Toby run headfirst into the pile, toss leaves into the air with his snout, leaping vertically to catch them, and Maggie watching with interest, at first detached, as is her norm, but then invested in it, actually invested in it, until my girl can’t help herself, and she’s tossing leaves with her brother, great fun for all as I laugh and applaud their antics.
The Change Accelerates
I swear, it’s only a week or two, and suddenly the entire walk is more kaleidoscope than black and white, and the leaves are plentiful below, kicking them up as I walk, the dogs into it then, every fallen leaf is their plaything, not those expensive toys purchased at pet stores, but great fun nonetheless, and I’m humming “Autumn Leaves” as we walk, a song from the distant past, played it once at an organ recital, the autumn leaves, drift by my window, the autumn leaves, of red and gold, Nat King Cole singing with me, or so it seems, so vivid are the memories of days gone by, back when my hair was brown, my muscles supple . . . the song continues to play in my mind’s ear . . . since you went away, the days grow long, and soon I’ll hear old winter’s song - and suddenly it doesn't seem to be a song about the seasons, but rather about aging, and man alive can I ever relate.
One more week along this path and the change is complete, the colors at their most vibrant, the mind unable to categorize it all, pumpkin orange, sunset red, electric yellow, like giant beach balls attached to trunks, and the evergreens providing a backdrop of contrast, making the colors seems more vivid, more vibrant, more alive, and that’s a strange thought, the colors appearing to be more alive when, in fact, they signal the hibernation of a winter fast approaching.
Maggie and Toby, they love this weather, the crispness of it all. There is spring in their step, a play on words if I ever heard one, the sluggishness of the dog days gone now, replaced by childish behavior, tails erect, their coats shining brightly, their eyes filled with expectations, and I find myself envious of their youth, envious of their unbridled joy, envious of their explorations and their lack of preconceived notions and opinions, unencumbered by schedules and responsibilities . . . and I sigh!
Times like these, on walks like these, I can forget the COVID, forget the political madness, and forget the hardships so many endure, and simply be with my dogs. They are good company, my dogs, and they combine with pleasant, loving memories of times gone by, memories I cherish, memories which warm me on cool afternoons, and warm me even more as the winter winds approach, uninvited. Soon the leaves will all fall, will be raked up, hauled away, blown away, dissolving into the soil, replenishing it, giving it sustenance, preparing it for a new spring, new growth, and the cycle continues, as it always has, and that thought provides comfort to me.
There will be new buds on those limbs, after the winter snows melt, and those buds will grow and flourish and cloak us in a comforter of green, birth follows death as surely as the sun follows the night, a truth known thousands of years in the past, known now, and to be known in the future, known by my parents, known by me, known by my son, and so it goes.
Just an old man walking with his two dogs on a late-September afternoon.
All Good Things Must Come to an End
And so it is with these walks! Maggie, these walks tire her out more than her brother, for Toby is still child enough to be endless in his pursuit of fun, but as soon as we get home they both lay down, close their eyes, and sleep. Me, I have emails to answer, articles to write, chores to do, and errands to run, but for one hour, each day, I am able to turn back the calendar, suspend reality, and take a magic carpet ride back in time, to simpler times, to times I hold dear, close to my heart, where the valuables are always safe from thieves.
I’m so happy you were able to join us today. You are welcome any old time you can find the time, silly notion, that, finding time, as if it were hidden from view, but the offer still stands, and you know where you can find us, where the pavement ends and the wonders begin, just an old man and his dogs, ready for adventure, walking through the landscape of life.
Happy Traveling to you all!
2020 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)