October

I awoke to the first cold Monday morning today. The bed, with its pillow-top mattress and down comforter, seemed mighty preferable to the cold floor, dark hallways and…work. How many personal days do I have left…?

The day brightened up as I got some hot coffee in me and made it to the car–I mean it literally did. The slanty sun himself came up over the city as I crested the highway North, the first time I’ve seen it do that in months. And it did not disappoint. A hazy red gumball, a Japanese flag. Later on, a small V of geese, black in silhouette, passed overhead, heading down the Missouri to wherever they are going. A fog monster glided up over the stubble field they crossed, trying to act threatening as the sun burned its edges into feathery wisps of cold smoke.

I do love October. Yesterday I spent all morning cleaning windows, to let that strong October sun in the house, perhaps also an unconscious attempt to head off that snowbound feeling before it starts. In the afternoon I walked a golf course alone, cheating and cursing myself into a pretty good score. My calves are sore now, remembering all those uphill par fours.

The day before we took our annual pilgrimage to Nebraska City, home of Arbor Day and Arbor Lodge, which is now a state park. The Lodge, on 160 acres (bought from Uncle Sam at ten cents per), was originally a four-room frame house built in the 19th century–the first one, they say, West of Nebraska City and East of the Rockies. Through several generations and additions it ended up as the impressive mansion home of J. Sterling Morton, secretary of agriculture and founder of the Morton salt company as well as Arbor Day itself. There’s a fantastic carriage house with various period carriages from the 1880s to about 1910, bought on a whim when Morton could snatch them up for a song (cars, you know). There’s also a working apple orchard and many varieties of trees planted throughout the estate. There’s also some new commercial crap they’ve built to increase the tourist factor–I think they call it “Tree Adventure”–but we always avoid that area of of the park.

We had lunch at Johnny’s Corner Cafe in downtown Nebraska City, where I had the massive hot beef sandwich, famous in three states. We bought some nice Fujis and come cherry cider at an old orchard outside of town.

As I walked the grounds of Arbor Lodge with my little family that afternoon, full of roast beef and mashed potatoes, I was able to capture for a little while a bit of that unattached contentment that is so rare, and so valuable. As my daughter swung on my arm and we walked up the rutted carriage path to the house, she scattering squirrels and us laughing at her, the sun friendly on us and not too warm, the clouds like big scoops of mashed potatoes themselves and the sky that curious October blue, the moment lapsed into one of perfect ease. For those few minutes, absolutely nothing else was on my mind, nothing nagged at my attention. I was, the day was, we were–it all was, and always will be nothing more nor less. Time unconstrained, simply lived.

That night the crescent moon lulled low among silvery clouds, the clouds being their unique October selves. Friends came by for dinner, I built a little fire outside and drank a couple of beers with my friend, feeling the chill of the air and the warmth of the flames and the conversation. He told me about his garage sale, and of course we talked about music and life.

It was continuing to be a good day.

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