Orange and golden-yellow leaves blown from the quaking aspens fall and skitter across the asphalt in the headlights as I motor down the small hill that leads to my street. It's surprisingly warm for the second day before October. As I park in my driveway and open the car door the wind rustles the long hair-like tresses of the weeping birch. The neighbor's porch light prints a black silhouette of the crabapple on the side of their house. An electric suspense is in the air– that nocturnal autumn energy of expectation... of something about to happen that is not necessarily good. Is this how horses and cats feel before a storm? It's that autumnal quiet excitement with a mild underlying tension that is a only few degrees less worrisome than dread or fear– a night the gangly Ichabod Crane might clop and clatter through the woods on his horse.
The summer chairs are still out on wooden deck at the back of the house but the wind this evening, although not cold, was blowing too strongly. Several large stars and the big W of Cassiopia peeked from between long stretches of hazy cloud in the eastern sky just above the dark outline of Douglas firs. Their height and extreme slenderness has always amazed me and it all seems so foreign– here they are in my yard but that is all the ownership I can claim. They are not mine emotionally... their trunks too skinny for my taste and the branches seem too short. These firs belong to the north wind that blows so harshly though them, to the massive snow load that weighs down their frozen branches but does no harm. They belong to northern people. My coastal trees hundreds of miles southwest where I was born are towering specimens, enormous in girth and covered in lush, forest-scented moss.
Stargazing is put on hold with the wind lifting strands of hair across my face. I pick up the blanket hanging over the arm of a wicker chair, enter the house and take my laptop out to the small and somewhat sheltered front porch. The blanket, now folded, will cushion my sitting place on the highest of three concrete steps.
In the pre-Halloween soft orange glow of the sodium vapour streetlights (pretending to be setting suns) mysterious shapes shift against any light coloured vertical surface – licorice against hues of peachy-orange. The flavour of orange/black/white All-Sorts wafts through my mind. In childhood I picked out the detested licorice layers and presented those to my father as a gift.
I jump at the sound of...... footsteps coming down the sidewalk?
The first heavy spatters of rain on the pavement? The wind has spooked me.
Hah! Tricky leaves, always fooling me with their mimicry of a downpour on the street. Then a thump right here next to me! On edge, my heartbeat quickens. Something nudges my side. Seconds after the release of adrenaline a questioning, rhotic "prrroww-oww" to my relief inidicates it's only Penny, the neighboring cat.
We have adopted each other as companions since early spring, sharing chats and cuddles on those warm afternoons, sometimes lying together on the long grass under the lilac tree and its newly opened pink-edged buds, I would read while she played with a blade of grass. Here I forgave her the two cat hairs in my mug of Earl Gray tea and she forgave me my loss of attention to her as I fished the offending objects off the surface with a fallen twig while she pawed at a black Ground Beetle. Neither of us loners yet often alone, we enjoyed those happy shared moments.
A small white car rolls down the street in front of us and makes a right-hand turn singing loudly: "It's the time... of the sea-ea-son for love-ing…" and then comes to a stop. A voice from the darkness interrupts the music, "No– after lunch". A muffled slam of the door and the pale little beast on wheels, watercoloured in peach lamp-light, roars like a small lion cub up the short incline called Tamarac Lane away into the darkness.
My fingers are moving a little slower over the keyboard, stiffening in the chill wind that whips the treetops into a frenzy. The cat's wandered off. It's now 10:30. As I close my laptop, pick up the blanket and enter the front door I wish, my dear friend, you could come sit by the fire and join me for a cup of (hairless!) tea.
tinyurl.com/onmxtou ♫♩ ♬