There might be nothing more pleasant than walking the dog on a warm fall evening. The last few walks, we have gone extra far, because I keep thinking that after the frost that marked the start of school, we may not have many nice nights left this season.
I love the fall. It’s my favourite time of year. My friend recently said that spring is the details, but fall is all about the big picture. This time of year is the twilight of summer, the dregs of the fun-filled, sun-filled freedom from oppressive darkness and layers of clothing, and the knowledge that we’re well on our way back there. It’s incredible – clockwork, even, how the weather gets chilly as soon as Labour Day has passed and the kids go back to school. I always feel like fall is more the new year than January. It’s at least as much a time for resolutions as January. This year, I swear I will make lunches the night before. And get to work on time every day. And make them do their homework before 8:00 Sunday night. And…
But tonight, there was no chill in the air. Maybe this is our Indian Summer, I don’t know, but the only clue that it was past Labour Day was the early dusk, the geese overhead, and the leaves starting to accumulate at the edges of the road.
I love the geese. They chatter away up there, huge great flocks, sixty or seventy in a vee, forming and reforming fluidly. They natter constantly; I always wonder if they are like one big Irish family in the kitchen at Christmas, all good-natured and affectionate argument about the best way to get South. I want them to be in symmetrical vees – there is always one arm longer than the other, but I love how they are always moving back and forth, rearranging the ranks, and yet always in those straight tight lines. I feel sorry for the lone one, following a few seconds behind the big group, honking away to wait up. I imagine he is the surly adolescent who wanted five more minutes of sleep, or who was busy chatting up the hot chick from the flock next door, who missed the big departure and now has to spend all his energy flying solo, trying desperately to catch up to his family, the raucous brood it turns out he really wants to be with after all, who will of course welcome him back, the prodigal son who just needs to draft for a few minutes to catch his breath. I like the smaller groups, the pairs, trying out new family arrangements, or the mini flocks of four or five, little cliques cruising along, gossiping along the way.
And then in ten or fifteen, minutes, the hundreds of geese are gone (where do they go, anyway?) and night is here, the gunmetal sky shifted imperceptibly to black. Tonight, there are no stars. The wind is picking up – the clouds that block the stars and make the sky a velvety ink that seems to absorb light will soon spill and when we wake up, the world will smell like wet leaves. Tomorrow will be a casserole day, where today was a barbecue day, maybe the last of the year. At this time of the year, the days are short enough that it is getting dark as I go out to walk the dog, but it is still close enough to summer that denial is still alive and well, and people leave their blinds open so I can peek at their tacky taste in wallpaper. It’s a voyeur’s time of day, dusk, maybe why I love it.
As fall is my favourite time of year, nightfall is my favourite time of day. That suspension, that time between day and night feels like accomplishment, like anticipating the oblivion, the responsibility-lessness of sleeping which is the reward for a long productive day. It feels like being on the cusp of a new, crisp set of possibilities. Night leads into the bright, clean slate of dawn, like fall moves us to the blankness of winter, the days to be filled with activity and busy-ness, so as to maximize the token daylight and absent warmth. Time to be filled with the resolutions of the true new year, the new day. Uncertainties can be put to rest at night, and the light of morning gives them a renaissance, a new perspective to make them possible again.
And so, on to the new year. Time to change over the wardrobe from capris and sandals to cordurouy and sweaters. And on to the new day – what was it that dear Scarlett said? “…tomorrow is another day…” – no matter what you regret about today, the night represents a clean break and a new opportunity to do it differently.
So now, I am going to lie in my bed and listen to the wind in the trees, which in the next while will bring the rain on the roof of the metal shed outside my window, and if I’m lucky, the lonely honk of one last goose calling to his family as he fights the rain to get to the next checkpoint. I’ll bet he won’t oversleep tomorrow. He’ll tuck the day’s regrets under his wing and lose them over the landscape, so that when he leaves tomorrow, he’s back on whatever track he wants to be on.
I can do that too – melt all my doubts and insecurities away as I fall asleep, and in the new light of morning, they will be magically changed to options and opportunities. Which is by no means to say that they won’t be back to doubts by this time tomorrow – but that’s the magic. I’ll have the same chance tomorrow, and next year.