First Autumn Days

Once upon a time, back when I thought ‘muscat’ was what lived in the river behind the fields behind the house, there was a future that beckoned as only futures can. This particular future was mine, and I looked forward to it. Analysis would come later, with growing up and marrying and a vengeance. Now there was just the future.

The present, I got that for my birthday, didn’t fit anymore. Someone close had died and I thought it was my fault though it happened far away. I didn’t, really. Think about it. But I knew.

The sun shone anyway and right way through the forest edge where we kept losing the ball. The larger dog always found the ball and brought it back, sometimes days later, always wet. The sun burned the dew from the weeds and in April and September, sometimes October, we would tie our sweaters around our waists and go looking for nuts and birds and animals. We found muscat tracks in the mud, and travels and futures in all the house’s books, futures written so they flew past every time we looked in: Defoe, Carroll, Dickens; Dumas, Voltaire, Anna Sewell (lady authors had first names). Forests and books full of black bears seldom seen.

I met China, a missionary lady from there who came to visit one of my aunts, and didn’t think to ask her which part. ‘China’ was enough to know. Still is, although I’m conditioned now to think I should think it shouldn’t be.

I thought that I learned early that real life wouldn’t teach me much. That’s what I thought it taught me until real life intruded. Burst in. The beauty I found and find every day comes from nature itself and also as distilled into books and paintings and music. We are the distillers, we think.

We are the distillers, we think. We wonder why it is not ‘sometimes’ but ‘every time’ and think that’s thought. Like others, I turn my ‘thoughts’ to provenance and teleology, and, like them, achieve nothing that affects berries, birds, animals, or China; achieve only long tortuous sentences. Maybe China is affected, but where in China?

The stillness of Jeanne d’Arc as she lies in Rouen. That’s a future. They burned her. I know that. Usually I don’t think to ask who burned her. ‘They’ is enough to know. They used up their futures. A cloud of meaty smoke.

When the wind comes down from Normandy and the leaves turn tail and it’s impossible even for the larger dog to find the wet ball, we jump into our sweaters and think of futures in which we migrate to places we would sweat in our jumpers. Endless sand beaches occupy us but not really, considering how triste the tourists look doing the Sanibel shuffle in perfect weather all the daze of their unoccupied lives. They don’t think about it, but they know.

We turn our faces to the autumn wind. We sing of futures, and wonder why mayonnaise here, unlike back when, leaves an aftertaste that muscatel only dissipates, not kills.