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Friday, November 5, 2010

Vernon






A Fall Ride
by: Melissa Puddle Hall


It is going to be one of those fall days when you feel guilty if you stay indoors: crispy cool in the morning and warm in the afternoon with sunshine, lots and lots of sunshine. It is not the harsh sun of summer, or the anemic sun of winter, or even the welcome but tender and untried sun of spring, but an embracing sun that makes you warm throughout the essence of your very being. I think of a quote by Nathaniel Hawthorne: “ I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.” I know I will be too cold in the morning if I don't wear leg warmers, arm warmers, and a vest, but I know that I will carry them with me in the afternoon and what is now my delight will become my burden. Thus I pack accordingly for I am going exploring today. Sometimes it is nice to be alone, to ride the pace you want, to stop when you want and take a picture or to take in a particular scene, to think without interruption. I have never been to Vernon so last night I poured over the maps trying to find a nice route much more organized than my normal meandering voyages of discovery, but daylight is short. It is getting where it is more difficult to discover roads I don't know though I sometimes think that is due to a tendency to adhere to routine rather than the lack of roads, but today I will find a few.

Early in the ride, on Lake Road, I see something sitting in the road ahead. Being nearsighted, I struggle with what it is. It is too big for a cat, but does not really look like a dog though he sits like one. As I get closer, I see it is a fox, his bushy tail larger than his torso. I roll closer and closer and am uneasy as he does not move but is obviously alive. I assume he has gone to the pond across the road from the wooded area to drink as the drought has dried up many of the creeks I will pass during the ride. I worry that he is rabid and I wonder if I should pass when he finally spots me and streaks off into the forest, melting into the trees, a flash that leaves you wondering if you imagined the whole thing, like seeing a ghost. I am sorry to have startled him out of his morning reverie as that is one of the things I have been looking forward to on this ride, that and the fall scenery. In all the miles I have covered on my bicycle I have only spotted a fox twice, and I decide that it portends a good day.

The fall scenery does not disappoint. Whether the leaves are turning from the season or the drought, they are turning and beginning to spot the roads in places. Occasionally the road is stained by crushed walnuts, persimmons, and acorns. Halloween decorations are everywhere and it brings back memories from my own childhood and from that of my children. I remember taking my children trick or treating, their eyes aglow with excitement and anticipation. How much the holiday has changed for when I was a child it was the night to be out after dark with no adults to supervise, running wild. There were no thoughts that anyone would purposefully hurt a child. I recall the fun of decorating with my children, carving pumpkins and making dummies from old clothing, straw, and a plastic pumpkin. Old sheets made great ghosts. Halloween was a time for creativity and creation, not buying from a store. I think of how my now deceased cat, Christmas, would sit in the lap of the dummy we made on a fine fall day, languidly basking in the sun that was sure to disappear in the near future. I thought about my husband cursing through his grins when he came home from night and the ghost we had hanging in the drive banged into his truck windshield frightening him. By the time I awaken from my thoughts, miles have passed and I am on to new roads and places I have not been before.

All too soon I am home, hungry as can be for I did not stop for lunch today. My husband is there to greet me. However many more days such as day I will have, I believe I will always be greedy for more. Does fall touch me so with such a nameless hunger and poignancy because of the recognition that it is fleeting or because of being in the autumn of my own life? Another thought to ponder on another ride on another day. For now it is enough to be home and embraced with love, safety, and warmth.

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