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An Autumn Walk
by Fred Miller



Our reliable mantel clock ticks away through the early morning hours,

reminding me I am alone. A week ago, the village priest, in solemn

tones, presided over your last rites as we said our final goodbyes.

The womenfolk of the village have come and gone with carefully

chosen words, cakes, and casseroles. All is still except for Sam,

his tail in motion as I scratch his floppy ears.


In a pensive moment, I resolve to take a walk in the early autumn air,

my red checkered shirt and my deerstalker protecting me from the

morning chill. Sam bounces out the door toward a cerulean sky that

oversees what appears to be a bountiful harvest. The landscape,

touched by nature’s brush, is painted in pale hues.


For some reason, a tide of foibles I foisted on you rushes into my mind.

For a moment my eyesight is impaired. Yet, I also recall a wrinkled

nose, a dimpled grin, and how carefully you protected

our treasured relationship by forgiving missteps I so often made.

My pace hastens. Along the way a jaunty hare leaps across

our path and startles me. I pause to wonder about the nature of his hurry,

but Sam does not hesitate and abandons me for a merry chase. No matter.

I’m confident no harm will come to this wily little creature. Without

my knowledge, a host of beggar’s lice have quietly kissed my trousers

and climbed aboard for a ride.


In silence, my memories conjure up your soft voice and I

pause to gaze around though I know you cannot be there.

Ahead, across the savannah, I spot fingers of morning mist lacing

through blushing maples and caressing meadow sage before dis-

appearing before my eyes as if this brief performance was long ago

fated to be.


Along the bank of a stream that crosses our farm, I recall lush days

when the three of us lingered to watch tadpoles in playful chase,

and butterflies that filled our eyes with wonder before racing into

the shadows.


I remember now that the widow Brown has issued a dinner invitation

for this evening. I’d prefer no company now other than Sam, yet

I’m wondering how to decline her offer without offending her. So

many memories return, times when your steadfast love encircled

me like a warm quilt. And nuances of our moments together you so

carefully crafted into golden memories.


Across the horizon, a collective kaleidoscope of beauty looms: tapestries

of russets and ambers, burnt sienna, and broomstick hues that overshadow

tiny spires of chimney smoke rising from the village, reminders of cozy fires

where folks will soon gather for morning exchanges before the day’s work begins.


A deep earthy smell fills my lungs as I make my way toward parched fields

where desiccated sunflowers weep before an unknown god, one whom they

must believe robbed them of vitality and luster. Above, I hear feisty squirrels

chirp and tussle for possession of acorns, the last of the season no doubt. I

muse over whether they will store them for the coming winter or consume

them now.


Taking a breath, I linger here and marvel over the scene surrounding me.

And I recall how your poetry captured what I could never put into words.

And how you played with my affections with wry couplets you penned in

my honor.


Below I follow a path of a delicate insect on wing spiraling down, no doubt

in the throes of its final flight before succumbing to eternal rest. Surely this

creature knows its hallowed mission has been fulfilled and somewhere nearby

its prodigy lies snug in a nook awaiting the warmth and renewal of spring.


The screech of a hawk causes me to pause as my eyes follow its

path, no doubt mourning the passing of summer’s rich store of

plenty as his eyes focus on any movement below. I wonder if he is aware

of what seasonal changes can do to a soul. Perhaps. Like him, I decide to

accept each day as it comes and to follow simple routines I can recall.


Sam, none the worse from his fruitless journey, returns to my side, his coat full

of thistle and straw.  Ahead I see steam rising behind a tractor from fresh cut

hay and I instinctively want to sneeze.


Across the meadow, a procession of bawling cows is making its way to a

barn and needed relief.  And in the distance, I can hear the smithy’s hammer

pounding on an anvil in perfect rhythms that speak to me in singular ways.

Somewhere near his shop, there is a mule making circles around a

contraption squeezing cane. The liquid trickles down into a pan over a

fire nearby where hot bubbling molasses is being made, its sweet aroma

easing down the lanes of the village.


Yet little I hear or see can take my mind’s eye from your image, your smile,

or your voice, now absent, but reminders that echo the emptiness of winter’s

face that is soon to appear and offer no reassurance of the renewal we so

faithfully treasure. My head fills with images of meadowlarks and their

cheerful song and crickets, new to the world, providing evening vespers for

all of nature to behold and offering a solemn promise of new life to come.

I gaze at plump gourds and pumpkins askew in rows and smile knowing that

jack-o-lanterns will soon stir antsy kids in costume to race about in hasty pursuit

of tasty treats. And I suspect, with a harvest moon to provide a soft luster over the

autumn scene below.


At the door, I find a pie on the threshold, Sam’s nose and tail on high alert.

And a note from the widow Brown allowing me a bye if I wish to decline

her kind invitation for dinner.


Before a crackling fire, I sit in my rocker keeping time with the clock on the

mantel and my hand on Sam’s soft head. I smile as I realize changes I’ve

seen are a reminder of steadfast and expected turns in life and that soon my

heart will be filled with grand dreams of our times together and the goodness

you so skillfully sketched with joy across my heart.





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