Saturday, October 23, 2010
And I shall tell this with a sigh...
Once a year in autumn, my thoughts turn back to a small town I once lived in and my life there. It is true, the town was not my heart's desire and my time there ended sadly and abruptly.
Still, when I catch a tall pine piercing a cobalt sky and the weather gauge hovers between temperate and crisp, a slight catch forms in my throat. For a brief time, the town was mine, too.
Autumn begins its work on the gum trees. Their tips turn gold as if they were artists' brushes swept across a child's open paintbox. Soon after, the oaks at the town center, the ones framing the churchyard, began burnishing followed up by the maples and poplar.
I could always hear the branches rustling from my bedroom window at dusk especially after the wind picked up in the afternoon. The trees scraped against the house and each other. They creaked too. An owl sometimes hooted, a lonesome sound, reminding me of how far away from the city I had come. These were beautiful but poignant days as my child and I were newly and unexpectedly made into a smaller family. They were also sweater days of the finest order and we often spent them in hand knits I had made on the hot summer afternoons my daughter splashed in the local pool. If I was ambivalent about this place, I hated it in summer because it was much too hot for a spot so far above sea level, and its thunderstorms were always muted and unsatisfying.
But the town in fall was different when we climbed the expansive incline of the village green that led up to the old library; a booming brick building with an arched doorway that four men could enter shoulder to shoulder. Once inside, the tiny wooden chairs and the scent of ancient books told of a special children's hour. We spent most of our fall afternoons there lost in books and puzzles, singalongs and little friends.
We took advantage of these high weather days and after the library and a visit to the tiny market, we wandered outdoors, our cheeks becoming warm from exercise. My daughter's fine hair whipped around even inside the red hood I knit for her. The scent of burning leaves penetrated the stitches of our sweaters which I could still smell hours later as I folded them and put them away.
We left forever in spring. A friend shot a final picture of us on the front steps of our home waving goodbye. We have never been back. Don't care to. But every fall, I allow for one imaginary visit where I again feel my child's small hand in mine and the trees light our path to the library in burnished red and gold.