I stepped out onto my back deck and relaxed muscles I hadn’t known were coiled and tense. My subconscious had expected a chill in the country dark of my backyard and responded by contracting my shoulders inward as if that pitiful closed parentheses could hold in all of my body heat. But the air that greeted me was silky and familiar and I settled into the crook of its arm as it cradled me and promised all would be okay. I knew then this was farewell.
At the very least it was a farewell to summer — a loss I’m learning to grieve every year. In Texas it’s easier to pretend. In Texas, Fall is more of an idea, a styled image, a middle child who might get a moment or two of attention in between the persistent, sticky summer and the lackadaisical, half-assed winter. In Indiana, Fall is an actual thing with corn mazes, apples on trees, and cold weather. The leaves actually change color and you can’t hide from the proximity of winter. Winter will come early and stay late. She’ll ruin your favorite shoes and try to act like they were already broken. She’ll smack when she chews, mispronounce “espresso”, and never ever EVER use a coaster. You’ll like her once or twice by accident, while in the throes of holiday cheer. You can forgive and forget for a minute, faking idyllic and pretending you missed her. Winter. That bitch.
But for now I have this farewell. I anthropomorphize the scene without its consent. Katydids and crickets music is surely a mournful lamentation. The tree is surely caressing the wind in return, pleading for it not to go. I hear a rustle, a crack, a bleat but don’t bother trying to find the source. The darkness is so complete it’s the same as closing my eyes. Sitting on the bench that outlines the deck perimeter, I rest my chin on the splintery rail and stare across the creek. I wonder how the long e becomes a short i in the pronunciation. I wonder what it means that I’ve started to say “crik” without even being a smartass about it.
I don’t think this farewell is for summer. I’m don’t know if this farewell is sad. I don’t know what to make of any of it. I don’t want to go to sleep or stay awake. All I know right now is the comfort of this breeze and the certainty that it’s leaving.