Tuesday, November 19, 2013

'Autumn' Classic






            George Winston is on the Ipod. Naturally. It's autumn.

            Sonya is here for a visit. She is sitting on the couch, relaxing; perhaps lying down. (Let's not tell.) She is reading a book and watching the early sunset through the west-facing windows.

            And also listening to the George Winston recording titled "Autumn."

            We have listened to this music for many years now, at home and on the road. We have driven through the country, up and down mountain roads in the fall of the year, listening to that recording on the car's CD player. We have listened to it at sunset time, or in autumn showers, or when dark clouds and overcast days tell the tender creatures of the world to stand up straight and pay attention. (Or else.)

            We played it when we lived in Plymouth where Sonya and Saul did most of their growing up. We played George Winston albums on vinyl, then on cassette, then on CD; now on the Ipod and the computer. They're a family soundtrack. Not all the albums are about autumn. We played "December," "Winter into Spring," "Summer," "Forest." All are good outdoor music, great seasonal evocations, and memorable theme songs for special places.

            But whenever it happens that we're together at some time or another in the fall of the year, the music of "Autumn" is certain at one moment or another to fill our space. The tracks on the album are named "Colors," "Woods," "Longing," "Moon," "Road," "Sea," and "Stars." Really, what else is there?

            Today, with Sonya here with me in Quincy and Anne at work, the two of us took a Dad-and-Daughter afternoon walk in the Blue Hills Reservation. No need to hurry. No elaborate preparations. Some discussion over whether it was really as warm outdoors as the thermometer said it was, and would it still feel like light sweater weather two hours later. No wind. Clear skies. The air held a summertime ambiance. The living was autumn easy.

            The woods of the Blue Hills proved silent at the mid-afternoon start of our outing. Birds were few, generally high up in the trees. Fugitive silhouettes. Chitter and goodbye. No crows, broadwings, no black shadows gliding above us. The squirrels silent and sated after weeks of rushing around. Acorns beneath our feet and nobody interested.

            Our trail begins off Willard Avenue close to a city neighborhood's houses, apartments and other buildings, a flux of roadways both local and interstate, and not far from one of the poster children for suburban over-development, the South Shore Mall. The report of traffic when you part the curtains of the forest is constant. But a few minutes down the trail and you no longer hear anything of that report, not even the headlines. You strain to pick up the buzz of a plane.

            We talked, passed a few other walkers, their matched labs,and I found myself on a path I did not remember choosing. Oh: here? Something chose it for us. A muddy spot in the center. Wetlands drier than usual in this under-watered autumn. The reflection of the surrounding tree-line in the pond where we cross on a causeway between the St. Moritzes named for the famous Swiss resort lake. The neighborhood once had aspirations.

            November's bare brush and branch, brown foliage,withered wildflowers -- all are brown as earth and wood. Summer's green the victim of last week's below freezing nights. Paths, unmarked, turn off to the west but we do not take them. On the trail's east side the lumbering approach of huge bald mounds of green-topped earth show us the border of Quincy's high-end Granite Links Golf Club, its high manmade fairways built on Big Dig fill.

            We come at last to the warm, winsome quiet day's crown of color. Bright with red berries glowing in the bare and brownish woods, amid so many branches, stalks and trunks (top photo on left). The day leads quietly up to this moment. "Colors."

            When I turn us back, the sun is on my right. I make sure to keep it there all the way back on the accidental trail.

            The birds emerge, a few here and there, and chitter with a carefree imitation of younger seasons.

            We make it back home in time to watch the sunset through the living room windows. The moon will come later; maybe we'll go to the sea to watch it rise. Then the stars. What else to do but fill the house with the pure and melancholy joy of George Winston's "Autumn"?