Monday, October 10, 2011


My earliest memories of the fall are a jumble of cockleburs, hot chocolate, BB guns, flannel, and hunting dogs. I think that is why the first cold mornings of fall trigger a ripple in my emotional magma. In my prime, I relished fall memories of cold rock in the vertical wilderness and cold splashes in raging rapids. They both remind me that my warmth is a treasure that has to be guarded. Now, when the leaves turn and a cold wind blows, I think of football, tight sweaters, and have an almost insuppressible urge to cuddle.

The cold reminds me that the new becomes old. In past autumns I've thought a lot about the new becoming the old. I’ve come to see that age means nothing without context. Climbing rock has eons of weathering and today’s river has been there many times. I am starting to feel the autumn of age.

This past weekend, I was set to reexplore a quintessential fall day by visiting my parents in NC. They need to see my son. He needs to see them. There is a current of life that passes between.  Just like autumn itself, there is warmth in that energy between the old and the new.

On Sunday, my wife and I took some time. We got up before daylight and went for coffee and a ride in the country. We took our old dog, Trap. In Siler City, there is only one convenience store that has real half and half and soon we emerged with steaming coffee, a couple of donuts, a newspaper, and smiles. The Eastern horizon was a deep purple in subtle contrast to the black skies of the departing night.

We drove into the purple, out to the hills. As I drove, I remembered an old turnout for a logging road that provided perfect framing of the blazing disk that rose and illuminated our world. With the windows rolled down, even cuddled together, the warmth of the sun was a welcomed contrast to the autumn cold. Before we returned to family, we let Trap out to do her business and to chase a deer a little ways down the road. She was puffing as I put her in the back. My wife was beaming as sharing such went beyond words. We drove back to my mother’s home.

We hadn’t been back but a few minutes when Trap showed up at mother’s back door. I had let her roam a bit as I knew that her hunting instincts were just wetted by the deer. Now she was barking and about to wake everyone. I tried to shush her several times. Her bark broke into a soulful howl. I felt sick when I saw the gash. I felt sick not because of the blood, but because I was raising my voice in anger at injured family. I don’t know how she got cut. It wasn’t a blow or a malicious wound. There was no muscle damage or bruising. She may have just stuck her head in some kind of a hole and got hung on something very sharp. We’ll never know. It was a long gash. It was a gash that occurred within 5 minutes of returning home.

Her brown eyes drew me in. She was asking for help with the clear voice of desperation. I called for my wife and we began doing what we could. We wrapped the wound with a towel and held it tight. As we worked on her, I felt her relax. I took that as a vote of confidence and admired her calmness while we fumbled looking for an open animal emergency room.

The strip mall that held the animal hospital was quiet. In a twist, a veterinarian named Dr. Beagle sewed up my Brittany Spaniel. I thanked her for her work while I winced and paid the bill. I paid with pride as I knew that this autumn my family was good and that there was more autumn coming.


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