The air is crisp and fresh this morning as I take Spur out for our morning walk. I breathe deeply, and feel deeply that subtle shift in the air, that settling feeling in in the world signalling the coming of autumn. And as we make our loop around the Reservoir, my thoughts stray automatically to all of the things that fall means.
I think of my horses, who on a day like this would buck wildly in their stalls at the slightest provocation, tossing their heads fiercely as I pour grain into buckets for them, displaying in full force the spirited horseness that is always dampened by the heat and lethargy of summer. I imagine the feeling of riding them on such a brisk day, like sitting on a coiled spring, as if they are made of pure energy thinly draped in a shining, silky haircoat.
I remember the feeling of going to my elementary school with my parents in the fall for Meet the Teacher night. The excitement of showing my mom and dad what my daytime world looked like coupled with the mystery of seeing that space at night made this one of my favorite times every year. And the smell—decaying leaves, construction paper, crayons. Somehow it was all different at night, and every year at this time, I remember it forcibly.
And the fair. Our county fair and annual PRCA rodeo come this time of year, and the bright lights and shrieks of delight from the carnival, the smell of smoked meats, fajitas, funnel cakes, fried everything, and livestock so often filled my senses that I can almost reconstruct it exactly in my mind. I remember going to the rodeo as a child, leaning as far forward as I possible could against the blue metal rails in the stands, beside myself to be so close to horses. And imagining myself as a tamer of wild broncs. And later, waiting outside of the coliseum with the ropers and barrel racers, sponsor-flag riders and rodeo board members to ride in the grand entry. Galloping swiftly around the arena on my Tigger, sparkling in rhinestones or sequins as I waved enthusiastically to the crowd having just been announced as the rodeo queen. My quiet delight and pride at having won that title (twice), tinged with just a hint of embarrassment. Long nights working the 4-H petting zoo with my friends. Chopped brisket sandwiches, which always taste the best at the fair, and that delicious lemonade that just isn’t available anywhere else. The sounds of Friday night football games going on across the street at Shotwell Stadium, and the subsequent population of the fairgrounds with teenagers proudly wearing their school colors–black and gold or blue and red–faces painted with school emblems, cheerleaders and pep squad members in their uniforms.
And new memories. Apple picking for my first time last fall with my fellow Abilene transplants and new friends from church, during which I picked 8 pounds of scrumptious apples and didn’t let a single one go to waste. My mouth is already watering for apple cider doughnuts and fresh apple cider, and I’m eager for the look and smell and feel of the orchards, where apples have ripened to perfection and weighed the tree boughs down almost to the ground.
The feeling last year of excitement and discovery and newness as I learned how to live in this place. Boston was all possibility and potential then, and I was on my own really for the first time in my life. I remember feeling almost like a bird using her wings for the first time, and relishing every new thing, every new experience, seeing ever day as a sort of adventure. Eating cannoli for the first time with Katie and Jeremiah. Settling into my new church family at Brookline. The first moments of new friendships. Watching the geese, ducks and swans here at the Reservoir as Spur and I made our daily loops, and listening to the soul-soothing sound of lapping water. And knowing that however long or short my tenure in this place, it would always, always be a part of me.
And in the midst of all these reflections, I feel that fall energy, that change energy, and I feel tempted to toss my head horse-like and run about in childish excitement. The world comes into a new focus, and I feel secretly, quietly that I can do anything, that anything is possible, intoxicated by the promise and potential of a new season, a new school year, a new semester. The way I feel every year in the fall, when the year stretches long before me. Soon, I know that the leaves will begin to change and fall, and then winter will come with its sharp bite. I’m not ready for that cold yet, but even though I know fall heralds its coming, I’m grateful for the soul-lifting, redemptive change that comes with this northerly wind.