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Kathy Bradley: The light in autumn
To paraphrase William Faulkner, there's just something about the light in autumn especially these beautiful fall sunsets over Bulloch County. - photo by Eddie Ledbetter

    There are so many ways to measure the movement of the year. The temperature of the breeze that comes wafting across the field, the color of the vegetation along the fence rows, the birdsong or lack thereof. Each of them in one way or another announces the passage of time from one season to the next. But breezes and briars and birds can be deceptive. Wet summer winds can demand a sweater. Rain can make an autumn ditch run like spring. Birds can get confused.
    Light never gets confused.
    I remember, sometime in the last week of August, pulling up to the stop sign at the intersection of what Adam and Kate always called the middle-sized road and Highway 301, the thoroughfare Daddy remembers as a dirt road, that I remember as a two-lane blacktop that now fans out across four lanes and a median for most of its way into town. The whirligig of my mind was spinning from one thing to another: Would the 11 o'clock meeting end in time for me to make the 12 o'clock meeting? How high must the humidity be today to make those fat drops of water rolling off the roof of the house onto the hydrangea leaves sound like the flop of a big old frog? Should I stop for gas before work or after?
    There was a lot of traffic. Both ways. So I had to sit still. I had to sit still and stare into the sun stuck just above the image of the horizon and I realized it is not where it was the week before. It was casting longer shadows. Its color was transforming the sky from the clear blue-white light of summer to the mellower, yellower light of fall. Already.
    It was still hot at the time. Run-the-air-conditioner hot. Walk-barefoot-to-the-mailbox hot. Wear-sleeveless-dresses hot. The geraniums on the front porch were still blooming. The leaves on the sycamore were still green. The peanuts were still in the field. It still felt like summer. But the light was saying differently. The light was not confused. The light knew that the year is waning.
    I did not.
    Well, actually I did, of course. I know how to read a calendar. But I chose to ignore the facts and live in denial of the inevitable, a situation that has left me this week rummaging through the closet in the guest room looking for warmer clothes, trying to remember how to work the heater in the car, and asking myself, as I scour the house for everything with an LED display, why exactly is it that I am changing all the clocks to a time one hour ago to re-experience again the hour I just lived. Believe me, there was nothing particularly worth reliving about that hour.
    It is not the first time I have chosen obliviousness over enlightenment, ignorance over knowledge, unconsciousness over discernment. It is not the first time I have stood in direct sunlight and declared, “I don’t see a thing.” And it is not a big leap to predict it will not be the last.
    I wish it were not so. I wish that I, like light, could not be confused. I wish that discombobulation was beyond my capacity. I wish that no matter what happened I could count on myself to be “the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible.” I am not, though, a huge ball of flaming gases. I do not cast shadows and spark photosynthesis. I do not exert a gravitational pull on anything. I am a singular being who imagines herself motionless as she flies through space at over a thousand miles per hour.
    I will never be light. I will always teeter on the edge of bewilderment. And, as I teeter, the best I can do is point my gaze toward the horizon and search out the sun.

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