Saturday, November 03, 2007

Extended Autumn

Fall in New Jersey is a beautiful season. Having grown up in the Midwest, where trees changed color rapidly and winter quickly moved in, here I appreciate how the fall comes gently. I can watch the subtle daily changes in the colors and the gradual fluttering of the leaves. And we benefit from the moderate, cool temperatures for an extended period of time, as Indian summer transitions into frost, we set up our heating system, pull out the blankets, and take the air conditioners out of the windows.

Yesterday I took a walk at sunset and saw a scene so beautiful it caused a woman to stop her car and come out to take a picture. I walked across a bridge over a lake. On one side, the cloudless sky was a deep blue, the trees lining the blue water a patchwork of yellow, green, orange and red. On the other side of the bridge, a soft cottony carpet of clouds covered the sky. The clouds were a deep pink and violet and they reflected this color onto the water. Combined with the colorful trees, it made for a vision so vibrant it was magical. I could look back and forth from the calm blues and autumn tones on one side of the bridge to the wild pinks and purples and shadows on the other.

We took out our air conditioners today. That gives us more window space and more light. It also seals away the outside air better. With the heat from our recently repaired oil furnace wafting upwards through the iron grates, we feel warm and cozy. I think of all the people, all the families, who have inhabited this house over the past century or more.

We had a lead inspection the other day. The inspector found lead, but told us it was under 10 layers of paint and probably at least a layer of paper. I imagine all the history hidden behind the walls. What kind of walls did different families look at? What kind of life experiences did they have here? What kind of memories did they create?

There is one small reminder of a former resident on the stairs leading down to the basement. A single brown, tie-up shoe that once fit a toddler, caught on a ledge in the stairway, covered with a thick layer of dust. That person whose little feet once ran across these same floors could well be an adult by now. No one seems to have had the heart to remove the evidence of his former presence. Soon a new person will begin its life in this house that has been a home to so many others. While we will probably move away before the baby forms any memories of this place, it will remain in the pictures, in its history, as the place it first called home.

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