Autumn, My Father, The Burning Forest
It’s not autumn yet, but the season is beginning to turn. The days are shorter. The nights, colder. Leaves on some of Boise’s trees are just now paling to yellow. Fall has always been my favorite season. A time when things are stirred up. A time to gather and settle in. A time when the light lands just so and the shadows go soft.
There is a memory of the summer-fall cusp that I return to every year. My father and I had taken a trip to New Mexico, just the two of us. We were there to find a patch of common ground in the midst of what was then, to us, no-man’s-land. I wrote about it once, in what will someday be a story, or an essay, or just a pile of pages in the bottom desk drawer. The excerpt is below:
The sun is low and reddish, though this red is a color you have never seen before. Your skin is painted with it. Your father’s too. You hold your hand up in front of your eyes and see it as though for the first time. Having arrived to Albuquerque by plane, then Santa Fe by rental car, the two of you have driven up the road to the ski resort and are now standing to one side of the parking lot, taking in the evening. Whatever is happening in the sky has made you both quiet. You are mesmerized. In awe. The slope below you is covered over with aspens, many thousands of them, growing stick-straight and nearly identical from one to the next. You have never seen an aspen before, and in this light they look otherworldly. Their bark is wrapped in the same color as your skin. The trees are glowing like they have been hollowed out and filled with hot coals. You half-expect them to burst into flame, and wonder how long before the sun drops lower and puts the fire out. You hope it is a long, long time. You look over to your father. His face is softer than you remember, but it has probably been years since you’ve really seen it, with purpose or intention. His eyes look wet, like maybe he will cry (although you know that he won’t). You can’t tell if he is happy or sad, but there in that moment, standing above the burning forest, you think maybe this might work.