First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. Not that all months arenít rare. But there be bad and good, as the pirates say.Ė Ray Bradbury
October. Season of change and season of discontent, of moving, of harvesting and of stock and store. When the first gentle chill breath of winter nips at the nape of my neck, I feel it all over again: The coercion to move, to change landscapes. My feet grow restless with the need of October. I was born in October, and it runs through my bones like winterís breath.
The dog is the latest in a long line of October companions. Sometimes we sit along Bayou Teche and, nose lifted, nostrils flaring, eyes half-shut, she inhales October. I almost think sheís dozing, but no, she is catching the scent of things that wonít be here, wonít happen, until tomorrow or the next day or next week, things that I canít sense but she inhales deeply and lets course through her lungs. October makes them more clear to her. October makes the scent of things far and away sharp and keen.
The water is high, but with this morningís front north winds will push it back into the bay. Last evening, garfish and carp swirled and left expanding rises in the bayou as we sat on the dock watching fallen brown cypress needles drift southward. A pair of wood ducks flew west, up the bayou, never diverting their path. The dog watched them pass, her black ears perched.
The trees are thinning, and I can see large nests that I forget about every summer when thereís no October in the air. An owl perched nearby a couple of autumns ago, watched me for an hour or more, eyes wide and unblinking. It worried me, for a time, because I know the messages owls bring. But there was no death in my days then. Only winter, and promises.
Restless, I call the dog and we go to the truck. I put her in the back and I drive for the levee, chasing October, white clamshell and limestone dust tailing behind. Because of civilization, because of responsibilities and deadlines and the cell phone hanging on the truck visor, this is the best I can manage: Chasing my tail, so to speak, instead of moving and stocking and storing. I race after October for an hour, but at last, all I can do is helplessly turn for home, because in the end, October will move on and Iíll still be here, confined in November. I canít imagine a more mournful existence no matter how hard I try.
I spy a little sparkle of black water and turn quickly, down the north side of the levee, to a tiny slough. I drop the tailgate and the dog leaps out, nose to the ground, tail beating left and right as she sorts and catalogues the scents of this place. I walk to the water and sit on an old fallen cypress. Water, again. Itís all ebb and flow, Harry Middleton said. Things that come and go.
Come and go.
No surprise, really. Itís always water lurking behind my eyes, black and green, water as primordial as the birth of the earth. If the Rockies are the Backbone of the World as the Blackfeet say, then these swamps and bayous are new skin, I guess, constantly changing, cells falling away and new ones emerging, shifting, transforming. Flowing and ebbing.
The dog comes and sits to my right, and, after a cursory request for a head patting, looks out at the little slough with me. She startles me when she does this, and she does it often: Finds the focal point of my own gaze and joins in. Together we sit and watch October drift lazily by in the air, in the little blackwater slough, in drooping autumn-laden tree limbs.
When I was a boy, October was mystery. Mystery and wonder, all at once. No less than spring, October was the antithesis to spring. The opposite of awakening. I had turned a year older earlier in the month, and, with the chill in the air and the browning of the world, I felt years past my age. Even then, I knew it was time to move on, to make peace with autumn and ready for winter. But there was school to attend, and Thanksgiving was coming, then Christmas, and a boy canít move in October anymore, but that doesnít take away its mystery. Doesnít take away the cool wonder of its breath.
All things on earth point home in old October: sailors to sea, travelers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken. Ė Thomas Wolfe
But itís growing dark and cooler. I stand and we make our way back to the truck. Iím not so hurried now, because Iím not going the right direction anymore. Iím going back, instead of moving with October, and itís rushing away behind me. Back home, nearly dark, the dog retreats to her yard, and I to the house. Itís October, and thereís a few bills remaining on the kitchen counter; the telephone sits guarding my escape, and itís unclear to me if the dead bolts on the door are keeping me in or October out.