12 September 2003

10:00 am, Home

Happy Birthday, CJFO!

I had every intention of writing a long description of my day when I got home from work last night, but I was so exhausted that I had just enough energy to make myself a grilled pepperjack cheese sandwich, call mom, and fall into bed. Twelve hours later, after a full eight hours of sleep, my usual breakfast of toast & tea (Celestial Seasoning's "Devonshire English Breakfast" - I looked for Irish Breakfast, but though Smith's has more tea than Hy-vee & McNally's combined, they don't have I.B.), having just brought Zeke in from the backyard where he was happily guarding the one large bush from the threat of a full-fledged Sparrow Invasion, I can attend to the chronicles of daily life.

When I woke up yesterday morning, it was cold by NM standards: 63° F! I turned on NPR and jumped into the shower immediately, but though the water was hot, I kept getting goosebumps because NPR kept cutting to the voices of children reading names of people who died in the WTC two years ago. Hard to believe it's been two years already; I kept thinking about the wonderful people with whom I shared that terrible day -- most significantly my fellow Fun Nuns (Nadia, Mary, Juleah, & Ali) -- and hoping that they're all well, safe, and happy in their various corners of the world.

I had about two hours to kill before I needed to get ready for work, so I spent some time with the web page. I decided that I would be happier if the plans archives were listed in chronological order, and so spent nearly 45 minutes cutting & pasting the code for the sophomore year table into the correct order. Kevin fixed the front page of my site for me, so now the background behind my name doesn't look like it's melting. Thanks, Kevin!

Excited that it was chilly enough to warrant my jean jacket, I thought of Carrie, who has shared the thrill of the first jean jacket day of fall with me for the last two years. It's getting colder here, but the other signals that tell me it's getting on to autumn are missing -- the trees are all either green or brown, no splendid oranges, roses, or yellows lighting up the hillsides; no Vs of Canada geese heading south; no bright merlot barns sharply defined against tawny fields of corn & brilliant blue skies; no prairie grasses waving yellow and orange in the afternoon sun; none of those goddamn little white bugs that swarmed campus every year in Grinnell.... I miss that huge tree above Darby with its thousand tiny yellow leaves, all winking together in a faint breeze like a shower of gold coins; I miss my autumn clue walks at Rock Creek where every red berry was a gift and a promise; I miss the smell of burning leaves.

Whenever I start thinking of how absolutely stunningly beautiful autumn in the midwest is, and when I start to feel a little bit sad that I'm not there to sit under a flock of geese flying so low and quiet that the only hint of their presence is a faint stirring wind and the distinctive sound of thirty pairs of wings pushing against the evening air, not there to be the only witness to a blue heron's soft descent into a tiny alcove of Rock Creek, I think of this time five years ago:

21 September, 1998 -- 1:24 pm -- Fire Escape with Kevin

Fall turned on today. It was that sudden. This weekend we were still snoozing
on Mac field in the warmth of the late afternoon sun, and then this morning
I stepped outside and it was cold. I love it. The chill in the air,
the smell of leaves... the need to wear sweaters... make me feel alive again.
I felt like I was really in school for the first time today, as I hiked across
campus in my brown flannel and my backpack saying thup thup with every step I took.
I will need to learn how to love Autumn in Iowa. In Madison, this day
would prompt me to drive to the arboretum after school, and crunch through
the leaves by the lake. I would drive with the windows wide open and inhale
the coming season, raping it of its shyness, forcing it into myself.
This chill breeze through these crisping leaves would set me longing for
apple cider and early mornings at the Farmer’s Market. Raking. Long
railroad track walks with the dog. Simon & Garfunkel -- campfires.
Jazzfest. Football games. Hot apple juice. Anne of Green Gables....
How can I make this Iowa oncoming autumn my own? I must find myself in
these autumn fields, these autumn streets.
I must create new rituals. This fire escape afternoon writing escape
from school is a good start. I am wearing socks for the second time all
school year...."

Surely it won't be long before I develop a hundred little fall rituals here, and then one day I'll find myself in an autumn far from New Mexico, missing the early morning mist across the foothills of the Sandias, missing the smell of roasting green chiles floating into my house from the little corner store across the street, missing whatever it is that will come to define autumn in New Mexico for me.


Anyhow, yesterday morning driving to work, I was just stunned by the mountains. They were all wrapped in mist, hung with clouds, so much so that I could only see the peaks of the Sandias, and I had to look long at the range to the south before I convinced myself it was really there. What is that southern range? It's marvelous, sloping farther down the horizon, green like Brigadoon.

And so I drove up into the mountains, up into the clouds, relishing the weight of my jacket on arms that have been bare for a month. I drove with my window open just enough to let in the morning air, with the radio tuned to the new station I found the other day -- Radio Free Santa Fe! -- and had nothing in my head but the physical pleasures of shifting gears and morning mountains.

Driving home, the mountains were blue in shadow, and their silhouettes clearly defined against the gray evening sky. I listened to the last song on YoungBlood's "center:level:roar" album again and again, feeling that its rise and fall of gentle horn & percussion voices -- like a rainstorm -- matched perfectly the mountains in the soft light of dusk. And then I came around a long curve, around the last large crest before town, and the sky was suddenly a warm tangerine all along the far western horizon. I had forgotten how sunset works in the mountains -- unlike Iowa, here the sunset can be a full hour later just twenty miles west, depending on where you are in relation to the mountains.

The descent from the Sandias was just amazing as the setting sun backlit the rippling mountains on the western horizon, far beyond the west mesa. To my left, the strange southern range was all violets and blues, once again proving itself the most elegant of the ranges. Accustomed to the wild magenta sunsets of Iowa, I was enchanted by the way the sunset here faded neatly from a bright tangerine to a pale dandelion down at the lowest edge of the sky, but the oranges and yellows of sunset faded so cleanly into the blues of the upper sky that the whole thing seemed to be one color, a color that was blue at the top and yellow at the bottom, with all subsequent hues between.

Last weekend Danielle and I drove west on 1-40 one night, just for the pleasure of conversation in a dark car and the feeling of motion. We turned around out by the Route 66 Casino, and as we approached Albuquerque from the high western plateau, the sky was bright and starry enough to see the contrast of the Sandias against the sky, and the wide spread of city lights against the foothills looked very familiar. It wasn't until I was home later that night that I found a painting of the very same scene -- the lights of habitation against the dark peaks -- and realized why it looked so familiar. The painting was my own, done when I was 16 or 17 years old, and I've had it hanging in my (many) bedrooms ever since.


This morning, I did a quick google search for any articles about the big art event Kevin's running in Maple Grove this weekend -- he was hired to organize and oversee the whole event, in which a ton of artists are taking shifts over four days to paint "sidewalk paintings" at the Shoppes at Arbor Lakes -- and though I found no news about the event, I did find this: "Kevin Cannon, 17, described his friends this way: 'Even if they're moralistic idealists and I'm a nihilistic Nietzschean existentialist, we can still get along just fine.'" It made me laugh.

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