Monday, September 16, 2013

Loosening the Grip

A waft of cool breeze washed over me as I entered Bear Canyon on my Sunday morning bike ride yesterday. Along with the chill came the smell of fall -- wet leaves, fall wild flowers, wood smoke. The sweat running inside my jersey suddenly felt cold... cold.

It was the first chink in the armor of a long summer. The inevitable swing of the seasons happens even here, the Oven of America, the Baked Apple, the Old, Sweltering Pueblo. Hallelujah.

That small taste did not last, and the rest of the day felt like the convection heater that is Tucson in September. I trimmed trees as sweat ran down my face and off my chin; I moved a bed while sweat dripped onto the tile; I lubed a bike chain with both oil and sweat; I changed a belt on the swamp cooler to squeeze an extra degree or two of cooling out of the ancient box. By afternoon, my skin was caked with salt.

But through it all, I remembered that taste of cool breeze, that smell of fall, that sliver of chill that is proof that change comes, incrementally sometimes, but as inevitable as the tides.

The mornings will soon begin to carry a brief chill. That chill will give way to the still strong momentum of summer, but, as the days pass, that chill will come again, stubbornly, lasting a moment or two longer, speaking to the trees. The trees will listen and respond with a blush of leaves that dry and fall and twirl in the breeze of October. The change starts small, but grows into the sweet clarity that is winter in the desert.

I have been waiting for a break from the heat and toil of a summer that has been unusually long and labor-filled, but rich and productive. I am torn between wanting it to end and giving it up, that season of strength and production.

As I sweat my way to work today, I will watch the younger men pull ahead. It is their time now. I am weary from years of teaching, coaching, providing, driving, feeding, nurturing, postponing, caring. It is still too hot to miss the heat of summer, but as the chill of old age settles in, I turn eyes of memory that way. I have no choice but to let it go.

When I take the bike down for my commute to work, a dry leaf blows toward me, directly at me, scraping along the concrete of the porch. It is curled, dry as a bone, pushed along by the hot wind.

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