©2022 Michael Raven
I am stuck on an image after I conjured it in my head a bit ago. It’s one of those pleasant images, a careless thing, and something I don’t often allow myself the liberty to entertain most days. As I’ve gotten older, such things seem both more important than ever, something taken for granted when I was young, and now threatening to be too frivolous for the likes of now-me with my responsibilities and sensible career with it’s sensible salary and sensible benefits.
Here in Minnesota, it seems like my two favorite seasons are always truncated into about a week apiece. Winter turns to summer with a drive-by visit from spring; then, we seem to get another overnight visit from autumn once summer has decided to give up the ghost and fade into winter. It might be my imagination, but that’s honestly how it feels to me. And a short little autumn seems like such a rip-off, if you ask me.
I was discussing this turning of seasons because it came up in therapy (yes, I have regular visits to make sure my head is screwed on straight… or mostly straight, as the case may be). One of the things that therapists look for is season change and how it impacts mental health of the folks they are shepherding and I think he was taken slightly aback when I said something to the effect of “Good Gods, man, I wish every day was autumn”. Normally, the trend is to get bummed out and depressed that Summer is waving and heading south for the Winter, but I thrive most years from late September until about midway through November when shit rolls downhill as the holidays and associated family gatherings start to become forefront into focus, especially when Grandad Winter meanders over the hill for his annual overstaycation.
Anyway, I had a quick chat online earlier today, these thoughts still lingering in my head and I mentioned that I could see us chatting in the park over coffee in October. What I didn’t mention was: in my mind I had painted a much more vivid picture.
In that picture, the important details were the dun-spotted yellow and scarlet maple leaves carpeting the unmowed grass still trying to push its way to the taste the diminishing sunlight, the temperatures chill enough for jackets (hoodies, leather, faux fur, who cares?) and those army surplus black “wool” gloves you used to find in military surplus stores (probably from Germany, but could easily be Swiss make) that all the cool kids would take the time to snip off the fingertips so you could still feel what you were doing it while you did it (that era before you might do it for haptic conductive feedback from a smartphone screen). With collars pulled up and ruddy cheeks, you might sit at greying wood picnic tables in the sea of leaves, some floating in the nearby pond or lake, or drifting lazily down a unhurried stream. In the table, several someones had made their mark, either declaring their love for someone or promoting their favorite bands, or carving out some kind of counterculture protest, or just feeling the urge to scratch out a profanity or three. Maybe they used their nail polish, not having a pocket knife in their purse or pocket. There might even be a thin rime of frost if it was late or early enough, with footpad-melted marks where a squirrel lingered while deciding where to hide a stray apple or acorn — until it saw you coming down the slope with a friend and a cup of coffee cradled in your hands to keep your fingerless-gloved tips warm against the October chill.
In this imagining of mine, two people are sitting across from each other, huddled unconsciously against the chill, sipping away at over-roasted black coffee in paper cups from the nearby café. And then, the stories would play out — hesitant at first, but picking up speed and volume, with the occasional laughter shattering the chill of the air while the coffee warmed souls as crows gathered in the trees overhead to check out what all the fuss was about. A few wrens or juncos would be checking the leaves nearby for insects and seed only visible to them as they eavesdropped, all the while wondering if you had a pastry that might leave crumbs behind.
And so, I have this kind of picture in my head today, leaving me wondering why I don’t just jet down to one of the nearby parks tomorrow when I am free of responsibility things and just sit there by myself. It’d be better with a friend, but I shouldn’t wait for one. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up chatting with someone with the same notions?