After finishing a long run over the sun-soaked, shadow-torn rolling hills south of Buffalo, NY yesterday, I walked a quarter mile to my car. It took only about three minutes to walk the last length of the dead end road where my car was waiting for me in the late afternoon sun, which was just beginning to wane at around 5 p.m. I recall the light being about the same when I ran a similar course last fall, probably October, a parallel place in the earth's ellipsis around the sun. And the day had other parallels as well.
On that day the fall had just begun to creep into my bones and I walked this same stretch of road feeling the fullness of its presence. Three minutes gave me leaves falling across my path, a three legged black dog doing its strange gallop beside me-- black dogs always the harbinger of death. Geese honked their departure overhead. A sad new grayness settled into the sky, the sunlight losing its luster. I could feel the slow ebb of all the small things that make smiling inevitable, leaving me alone with my thoughts in what would soon be a much quieter landscape, to test my body and my mind against harsher elements.
And yesterday, in the same three minute walk, spring was making its presence known. In that tiny sliver of time, the fullness of the season worked its way into me. The black dog was lazing in the sunshine on its porch and in the front corner of the yard, in a closet of leafless vines, a brother and sister were playing in what is really no more than a puddle. But it was large enough for the girl to paddle around it in her inner tube, which is what she was doing while her brother, a few years older at most, stood atop the upturned roots of a fallen tree-- likely soaked through by the collected water-- engaged in a make-believe drama that prompted him to shout, "I'm going to be doomed!" as he teetered on the edge of falling. He did not see me but his sister did, and she smiled quietly at me, seeming to share for a second my outsider's perspective on her brother. She said nothing to him or to me, but paddled on in small circles.
I carried on and saw three roosters pecking away under the giant pine tree in front of their house, watched geese gliding to a landing in the pond across the street. And much to my surprise, I could hear in the thicket what I can only imagine was the sound of geese mating. What a brutal and sensuous racket!
Two three-minute walks form my deepest impressions of fall and spring. Time slices the tiniest slivers of its passage into our souls, marking the seasons on our bones like a prisoner passing the days by carving a tally mark for each one into his wall. These are the loveliest scars to bear.