I like to walk around Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake, city lakes with paved paths and some dirt trails. Today I want to talk with the autumn leaves and listen for Keesha on the wind.
The leaves are a riot of red, yellow, and orange. We are in between the green expansive summer and the dark hunkering winter. It’s harvest time. It’s close to the day of the dead, all souls day, halloween. What ever your tradition, autumn is a time of deepening.
The wind is cool but not too cold. The geese and ducks trail their wings low over the water. The smell of someone’s fire teases a twang of longing from me.
I pause at a Cedar Lake beach where Keesha used to run while I smiled. The city reconditioned it. Less trees; more sand. Not as nice in my opinion. Farther up the dirt trail, the rocky area where I scattered Keesha’s ashes welcomes me like an old friend. I sit awhile, thinking mostly nothing.
Then I head back home.
As I near Lake of the Isles, I hear Michael Jackson’s Thriller blasting from speakers in a school yard. There’s a crowd of kids and adult-sized kids in zombie make up dancing the Thriller video choreography to the music. Hot cider for free on the sidewalk. I watch the zombies perform.
I cross the street and wander into Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark Bookstore. It’s the kind of bookstore where you plant your feet, spread your arms, lift your voice in joyous praise and deliriously declare, “I’ll take one of each.”
The women working there know the books, notice what intrigues you and make suggestions. One brings a toy to the counter. It’s two skeletons draped in black capes. She holds it up to the kids, arches her eyebrow at us adults and says, “I’ll turn it on but you have to dance.” She pushed the buttons and the skeletons do the boogie woogie. The kids dance. I dance. I look around the bookstore and all of us are dancing to the boogie woogie beat. I think this is not likely to occur at a Barnes and Noble.
I wander the stacks with my hot cider, browsing books – new fiction, Neruda poetry, non-fiction, a Kent Nerburn story, Elizabeth Gilbert’s new novel. I flip longingly through Dale Mulfinger’s cabin architecture book. He’s there. Talking, signing books. We talk cabins and I tell him I like his book. Secretly I wish he could transport me into one of those cabins he built so I could build a fire in the river stone fireplace, curl up with a blanket and some tea and read book after book.
Dharma, the 11 year old mixed breed dog with long black fur, pads up and nudges my hand. I pet her then keep exploring books. Soon I have a huge stack I carry in one arm. I remind myself this is not a library and slowly return books to their shelves. I pass Dharma again. She’s curled in a leather chair being slathered with affection by two women. “I’ll trade places with you.” I say to her. “Not a chance.” She says without even cracking a contented eye.
I leave and walk the paths homeward. I gaze up at the trees and the sky. The sun slants in at a sharp angle this time of year, kissing the autumn colored leaves. Half of the clouds are white and the back half in shadow.
I arrive back home and settle in with tea and a new book to keep me company.
Here in the North, autumn is a sigh. A pause. A time to breathe the expansive growth of summer, let it settle and become humus. A time to remember the passing of our days and remember the gifts that the earth, our ancestors, and life give to us every moment. Today my gifts came from a walk by the lakes and an unexpectedly thrilling bookstore visit.