Friday, October 05, 2007

Almost like fall

Date: Oct. 4
Mileage: 46
October mileage: 101
Temperature upon departure: 41
Rainfall: .01"

When I first moved to Juneau, a friend told me that the Native people of Southeast Alaska had a dozen words for rain, a dozen words for wind, and nothing to denote the seasons. That's obviously a complete fabrication, but when the gray days really start to stack up, you begin to wonder what that would feel like ... to believe things never changed.

But every once in a while you wake up in the morning, and the day just feels the way you think it should, the way you think October should, the way October used to feel, back when you didn't live in a temperate rainforest, and the Pacific Ocean didn't hold the temperature hostage, and the leaves didn't stay green until they died, and things changed.

Maybe it's the morning after a the first frost, after the night sky was so clear that the stars burned into your retinas before you could close your eyes. Even when heavy fog moved in with dawn, you knew it was still clear and bright up there somewhere, and you intended to find the sun.

Maybe you used your mountain bike to look for it, pedaling through the sticky air as your breath swirled in cumulus clouds around your face. The leaves crackled and disintegrated beneath your tires, only slightly less green now that they'd died. But as you climbed into the strengthening light, the leaves almost seemed yellow. Even orange.

You climbed until the frost rematerialized, holding the dead leaves hostage beneath white capsules of ice. You climbed until your breath felt hot against your face and the sweat trickling down your neck nearly froze en route. Then suddenly, almost without warning, you emerged from the fog into the blazing truth of morning ... a morning so clear the sky burned navy blue against the snow-capped peaks; the sun burned your retinas until you closed your eyes, and saw stars.

It made you think about they way October feels, the way October felt in all of those Octobers passed. Maybe you were sprinting down neighborhood streets with bags of candy, or standing in line for a concert, or cycling through an inferno of red maple trees in upstate New York. Maybe you were scrambling on granite outcroppings in the foothills with a kite in your hands, the way you did in junior high, with the cotton string wrapped around your wrist as you climbed. You let the kite go into the cold wind, watched it tumble and swirl over the abyss, watched it catch a breeze and dance in air so crisp and sweet you could taste the possibility, the promise of a new year, the promise of fall.

And you think it feels like that. Almost.