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Falling into the season

September 29th, 2005 · 4 Comments

The catalogs have come with their cover models adorned in long skirts and turtlenecks, swathed in suede and scarves, burdened with coats and boots, announcing the arrival of autumn. September has seen temperatures in the sixties and seventies, still considered summer for Seattle, with blue skies to boot. Yet the morning air brings a nip with it, an omen of cooler days to come, and the kids no longer envy the sun since they now stay up later than it does.

I recycle the catalogs, resisting the fall fashions. Cowl necks were never flattering on me. And I refuse to be excited by fleece. But maybe I’m in denial.

Summer is my favorite season. I’ve made myself a number of traditions for celebrating it, from trips to Port Townsend to crafts with the kids. I can’t believe it is the end of September. Past the official equinox. The kids read my calendar and announced autumn’s arrival to me on Thursday last week, remembering the occasion when they woke that morning, declaring it as if it should be celebrated. I pretended I didn’t hear them.

But last weekend Ted and I realized it was time to put away the outdoor furniture. Ted suggested we plan one last supper outside, yet by 5 pm it was too cool on our deck for dining. It didn’t make sense to keep the table, chairs and grill outside if we weren’t going to be using them.

In preparation, I took a broom and swept the floor of the garage. I saw the pieces of summer return to me, in bits brought by the bristles. I found a few sunflower seed shells, reminders of the chipmunk that had hid a cache between our bicycles. A stalk of silky lambs ear flowers that had missed the garbage can. I thought of the tiger lilies, daisies, iris, lavender and poppies, flowers that had come and gone in the warm months, leaving brown stalks behind, snips of stems that asked for spring to come again.

I swept around the boxes of concrete on the floor, remembering that the girls and I had yet to make our annual stepping stone for the garden, a tradition I started the summer my oldest turned one, six years ago. There’s a stack of blue plastic buckets for the mix and a box of molds and decorations. Since we make one each year, I’ve started stocking up on supplies.

In the pile by my broom, I discovered a feather, left by the neighborhood pheasant which had accidentally run into our garage one weekend afternoon. It was gray with vibrant red accent, colors both ordinary and magical. The bird’s visit was a rare one and the feathers seemed like treasures, collected by the girls in Ziploc bags. I was reluctant to throw this last one away.

Tuesday afternoon I mixed and poured the concrete in the kit. I helped the girls press their hands into the mold, adding my own weight to theirs. It was a frustrating process of getting the mix to the right consistency so it will hold a handprint. After a few attempts, and a number of paper towels, we decided it was finished.

Later I stood up on the deck, now strangely empty and bare of furniture, as a house is when movers come. I looked down below at the stepping stones we had made on the walkway. I saw the girls’ handprints in the cement, the impressions they had made in a moment.

I thought of the feather. I thought of fall. I thought of saying goodbye to summer.

Today we will take out the stepping stone from its mold and put it in the garden where it will be through fall and winter and spring, until another summer arrives. My girls will be a year older then, and so will I. Together as we tidy the beds, we’ll look at how little their hands were once, and marvel at the ways they’ve grown, measuring themselves against the marks preserved in the concrete circles.

As I say goodbye to summer, two images remain. One is the stepping stone. The other is the feather. Impression. Heaviness. Intention. Lightness. Flight. Surprise. It is these two contrasts that are qualities of the heart, necessities of the soul. It is these two ways that changes come. And it is these two ways that memories are made.

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Katy // Sep 29, 2005 at 11:47 am

    We had a cool spell last week here in SoCal, but this week, the temperature reached the high 90’s! Summer is lingering for us. I am not complaining.
    I like your idea of molding stepping stones every year. I am going to do that, beginning now! Never too late to start!

  • 2 Freedom Girl // Sep 29, 2005 at 3:55 pm

    Great post. Thanks for stopping by my blog. When I saw your blog title and pictures I thought, “Wow. That looks a lot like BI” and it was! We are practically neighbors. I’ll be back. 🙂

  • 3 philippe // Sep 30, 2005 at 4:18 am

    love the picture with the small hands 🙂
    take care

  • 4 Lucy // Sep 30, 2005 at 4:53 pm

    I always loved Fall. My very favorite time of year. Christmas is coming, and I adore Christmas. My mother was always in a better mood around Christmas. And it used to be that school started in Fall, instead of late Summer. I loved starting school. Not so much out of a love of school as a love of getting to be somewhere else for several hours per day. It’s also closer to a big freeze, and a big freeze means the end of bugs and snakes which continually terrorized the little near-sighted child that I was. All Summer I just knew there were bugs and snakes lurking right outside my field of clear vision!

    Now, perhaps, its more a force of habit. To be so thrilled that the weather is getting cooler and Cooler and COOLER!

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