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Column — Kathy Bradley

October and the promise it holds

October. The mustard and turnip patch has been planted. The broom sedge, which wasn’t there two weeks ago, is beginning to grow along the edges of the fields and sways in the breeze that wasn’t there two weeks ago either. The loosestrife is yielding to goldenrod. The hummingbirds have all but disappeared.
    October. The sound of the school bus rattling over the washboard ridges in the road no longer startles as it did in late August. Deer,  just beginning to darken with their winter coats, leap across that same road in long loops leaving heart-shaped memos in the sand. The hues left behind in the sky as the sun falls quickly below the horizon are the colors of an old bruise, deep and dull.
    October. Morning arrives in a gray-green mist that turns the farm into a magical landscape. I wouldn’t be half surprised to see a wizard walk out of the branch and onto the porch to join me for breakfast. The chill in the air could be just temperature or it could be something more.
    October is like the pumpkins that appear on every door step; it is full and round and seems to be just on the verge of exploding. Were the months of the year a house full of siblings, October would be the 14-year-old girl.
    It is the fair and funnel cakes and a pancake supper. It is the World Series and football. It is trick or treat and self-inflicted scariness. It is also my birth month. And given the fact that this year is what we tend to consider a “big” birthday, I’m willing to concede that I may be just a little more attuned to the things that have always made October my favorite month.
    Last night, just about dusk, I went walking with the dogs. October moments between sundown and hard dark spend more quickly than do the late afternoons of summer and, before I got too far, the moon, pushing the envelope toward full, was pouring silver-white light over the whole world.
    The road leads through a tunnel of pine trees and the dogs running ahead were little more than shadows, dark and light. There were no animal sounds, no breeze to rustle the drying leaves or pine straw. My steps were soft and slow.
    Suddenly, the moonlight fell over my shoulder in a bright white stream. Pouring through a break in the trees, it looked like a huge floodlight, one of those on the tops of prison guard towers that scan the ground for escaping inmates. And that is exactly what I felt like — my back to the fence, razor wire hovering just over my head, blinded by the light, frozen by conspicuousness.
    Turning back to the road, trying to refocus in the darkness, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the metaphor had any significance. Do we, as the candles on the cake grow in number, blow them out with wistfulness and the desire to escape the lives we have? Or do we take a deep breath and exhale with a smile, perhaps even laughter, in contemplation of what lives we, with increasing wisdom and experience, are capable of creating?
    As the darkness thickened and the details of the world blurred, I called out to the dogs, the same command I always give them when it’s time to turn for home, the command to which they always respond with speed and enthusiasm, the command they never question because they know they can trust me. “Let’s go!”
    And it was almost as if there was another voice, the voice of the young girl I used to be and the woman I was still to become, whispering the same thing to me. “Happy Birthday, Kathy. Now let’s go!”

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