Sunday, October 9, 2011


Great Falls, Virginia
As I sped along the beltway over the American Legion Bridge on Saturday morning, I drove through layers of fog rolling up from the water. The mist moved in waving columns like smoke, bringing with it a reminder that beneath city concrete, running waters and swirling temperatures create their own languid, chaotic beauty.

The watery fog burned off quickly enough, leaving a blue sky autumn day, perfect. I hiked through Scott's Run Nature Preserve with my friend. While she had appointments to keep with the smallest member of her family, I stretched the day out in the sun. I drove down the windy roads of Great Falls and parked by the Potomac at River Bend Park.  I found my way south on the trails there, wending my way into Great Falls Park.

As I walked by the river, the sun caught the angles of the water, flashed beams of light upwards through leaves turning them a spring-like green.  I relished this deception, the strength of light undermining a view of the true season.

Sunlit leaves
October is an in-between time, a transition. A week of rain can be followed by cloudless skies and skin-warming sun. Chilly, foggy mornings blossom to the blue sky of midday.

But we know what is coming.

Trees lack the bushy overload of leaves as some have already yellowed and fallen, crackle brown underfoot. While the shapes of those trees have not yet deflated to the bald skeletons of later season, the thinning exposes gaps of distance between the branches. We can see deeper into the woods where winter is waiting for us.

Our bodies feel the shift. Having rounded the fall equinox, the light disappears quickly now. We sleep more heavily for longer and eat heartily to prepare for the hibernation. For the last few weeks, I have looked up at my apartment windows in the evening and been surprised to find them already dark. In the mornings, I fire up my blue light box to trick testy circadian rhythms into believing the days haven't shrunk so short, a sleight of hand that gets them, and me, through the dark season. 

As a middle-aged woman walking by the river on a middle-aged day -- healthy, active still, blue sky, sunshine -- the chill and mist of the morning stuck to me. It's hard to know when a course correction is called for and when the seasons are simply changing as they must. It's hard not to wonder if I squandered spring, although pointless given my inability to change what has already passed.

I want to make the most of October, both the perfect days and those of endless drizzle. 

So I go to the river.

I grew up by the Potomac. I played in a creek by my childhood home that probably, through some circuitous route, drains into the same watershed.

Kennedy Center at dusk

In elementary school, I have a distinct memory of bouncing a super ball off the balcony of the Kennedy Center and watching it sail over a wall. I imagine it bobbing and floating down that river and out to sea, inadvertent toy pollution.

In high school, I sat with my legs dangling off walls, chain smoking cigarettes in Georgetown while looking out over that river at a time when the pollution level left it just shy of Cuyahoga levels of flammability.

A decade later, I trained for a marathon running on the C & O Canal towpath.

I've lived in ten other states, but many visits back here led me back to a walk by Riley's Lock. I always circle back to water. 

Why is that important?

I don't know.
Fog, Sugarloaf Mountain

The river feels like useful detail of some unclear larger story, and so I make note of it. 

Ruminations on fog and rivers, water in movement, hint at transforming and yet somehow staying, at core, essentially the same.

The fog still appears if the ingredients mix well, obscuring and illuminating the view with its caprice. Waters flow. Winter is coming, and when it does, I'll still delight in the caress of sunshine warming my skin. 

1 comment:

  1. cyn...i think u've found one of ur callings, my friend. wonderful writing...i want to snuggle up and read with a coffee!