Sunday, August 31, 2008

Memento mori

Autumn has arrived in a big way here in the Pacific Northwest. All I love about living here – the gentle showers, the bruise-colored skies, the ways colors become saturated from the soft light – it has all returned, after only the briefest of summer hiatuses. Hiati? Intermissions.

Ah, but my staycation is nearly over, too, such as it is/was. Basically I worked at home for a week, preparing for juggernaut projects coming up. That’s not as pitiful as it sounds. As my friend Matt puts it so well, basically I’ve lowered my overall stress level by parsing it out over a longer period.

Perversely, considering that I feel most myself during the fall season, during this transition into it I’ve been coping with a major case of wist. Can’t seem to shake it. Maybe it’s because come Tuesday the PCS season will be full upon me, which means embarking on 10-month emergency. Maybe it’s an ingrained pattern from childhood, when falls always meant another galling year of school was starting (I was a bully magnet.) Or maybe it’s because Mac, my absolutely fabulous Kerry Blue Terrier, has also been going through something, which reminds me that he won’t be with us forever.

Well, who will, right? And autumn invites us to mull that over that sad fact yet again.

Here’s a confession. For years I’ve had this game I play with myself, as I squire Mac around Irvington. I look at this house or that one and think: hmm, maybe that would be a good place to live alone, when Mac and James are both gone. It would be easy to keep up…it’s just the right size……etc., in that vein. And also for years, I’d catch myself doing that and think: how odd. Because it sounds like wish fulfillment, when I know for dead certain I don’t want to be without my two guys a second sooner than I have to.

Then just last night, walking past all these haunted houses, I realize what I’ve been doing all along. Not fantasizing at all – rehearsing. In anticipation of the unthinkable, when they’re both gone forever.

Indicative of my mood these days is a line I remembered from an old Rickie Lee Jones song: “years may go by….” From “On Saturday Afternoons in 1963.” Know it? Well, here it is, in all its elegiac beauty.

The most as you'll ever go
Is back where you used to know
If grown-ups could laugh this slow
Where as you watch the hour snow
Years may go by

So hold on to your special friend
Here, you'll need something to keep her in:
"Now you stay inside this foolish grin ... "
Though any day your secrets end
Then again
Years may go by

You saved your own special friend
'Cuz here you need something to hide her in
And you stay inside that foolish grin
When everyday now secrets end
Oh and then again
Years may go by


Patrick Wohlmut said...

Hey Mead,

Fall is my mom's favorite time of year, too; and one of mine. I love the way you describe the colors, sounds, and textures of autumn here. When I read it, I thought: "home." Thank you.

I always wonder what it would be like to live somewhere by myself, and I wonder, too, if it isn't a sort of mental rehearsal - preparing for the inevitable. Then again, in my case, it might be a case of "grass is greener" syndrome. I'm always wondering what life would be like if it wasn't what it's like now. Not that I lead an unhappy life, far from it (with the exception of a few minor details); but I'm always placing myself elsewhere when I should be right here. I've always done it. It's what I'm actually doing when people accuse me of talking to myself. If I were talking to myself, I'd still be here. I'm not there. Carol Ann gets it. She always catches me and says, "Come back to us."

Not sure why I do that, though.

k. crow said...

Fall is my favorite time of year, too. Perhaps because I have a fall birthday, I see it as a time of regeneration.

And I've spent hours upon hours in the neighborhood picking bungalow after bungalow in which I might spend my twilight years. But I can't help wondering if this wistfulness isn't a bit premature. Maybe it's more important to enjoy the music as I'm hearing it instead of dwelling in the expectation of what is to follow.

I hope Mac is alright. Please give him some extra scratches between the ears.

Anonymous said...

hi Mead,

here is a tune to go with your mood, if I understand your mood right...

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your post and what your friend Patrick wrote, that Carol Ann says to him Come back to us.

If you'll allow me to change the topic briefly: again (as you did at ) you've found a fourth declension noun in hiatus. Oh they're tricky, those fourth declension nouns. I had to look this one up and I found it here: . Along the way I found out that hiatus contains one -- a hiatus:

So back to the 4th declension, not to be confused with the Fifth Dimension, the plural's also hiatus (with a long u). But if you wrote that, few or none of us who follow your posts would know you meant the plural, so hiatuses probably works. . . or, um, intermissions.

We now go back to your actual posted topic, which is a topic that matters.

I'm wishing you a splendid, golden day of soft light on Monday, when I think you'll read this.

MattyZ said...

Oh, how I love fall too. The first musical I tried to write was called Autumn Tale. The lyric in the opening of this horror opera was:

"Watch the sky burn fire,
the blood of the dead
will rise again
as the leaves begin to fall..."

Appropriate for horror, yes - but in retrospect, I think it was also about me. For whatever reason, fall is my rejuvination period - a coming to life. I'm glad we've been teased with a few cool days...I can breathe again.

Steve Patterson said...

It always seems to me a marvelous grace period, between the still, dusty afternoons of August and November's big rains, when it's warm by day, cool by night. The light seems so crisp; it's a wonderful time to wander with the camera. And the smell of the fireplaces clearing the chimneys and those surreal violet dusks and the reddening trees turn ordinary cityscapes into peaking acid trips. It's time to get back to work. (And, too, well wishes to Mac.)

Anonymous said...

hi Mead and MattyZ,

MattyZ, your excerpt from "Autumn Tale" reminds me of Robin Williamson's "October Song."

cynseattle said...

So the typical "yellow" part of me immediately wanted to write something encouraging and uplifting, as well as point out the sunny, nearly hot weather predicted for this week...but pointing that out as a "positive" is a clear misread of the beautifully articulated pleasure you draw from the damper, cooler NW weather. So I resist; and feel like a more grown up person for doing so. I love fall, too. Although I have to admit that I'm drawn most to the intensity of the colors, so saturated after the washed out colors of summer, and the promise of those still very warm days that make it possible to leave Oregon in early October, visit friends in Massachusetts, and have them comment on the fact that I still have summer color in my face, and be able to respond, "well, it is the West Coast."

MightyToyCannon said...

Thanks for sharing your fall reveries and the link to Rickie Lee Jones. My autumnal thoughts turn to the John Prine song, "Killing the Blues," which opens with the lines:

Leaves were falling
Just like embers
In colors red and gold,
They set us on fire
Just like moonbeams in our eyes.

When I first heard the tune in a cover verson recorded by Shawn Colvin, I heard the first lines as:

Leaves were falling
Just like Elvis ...

It made perfect sense to me at the time, and seemed so much more poetic.

While Monday's weather displayed all the signs of fall, I'm looking forward to Portland's glorious Indian Summer. (Is that term still allowed?)

As a dog person, I wish you and your companion, Mac, all the best.

Mead said...

Thanks, MTC, and all of you who expressed concern for Mac. You'll be glad to hear he's doing splendidly now. And so am I.

And Portland's perfect, golden autumn continues apace.