Monday, October 27, 2008

From October to November

I have about 20 minutes to write this post. Maybe less. It's like one of those in-class writing assignments I give my students, which they are always so pleased to write. And by pleased I mean, the scribbles on their college ruled paper usually show grudging cooperation rather than enthusiastic engagement. They write it because they have to. They clearly don't want to. If they ended their sentences in prepositions like that, I'd leave them an "end prep" marginal notation. But I don't have to edit my own writing right now. For the next 20 minutes (more like 16, by now), I'm writing because I feel like it. I'm writing because I just dashed into the library and escaped a rain/sleet mixture that signals the coming birth of November.

In my mind, Halloween is a watershed moment. Before Halloween, there may be a day when the temperatures dive into the low 30s, but generally, warm days (or at least pleasant ones) are more common than freeze fests. After Halloween, though, the reverse seems to be true. All of a sudden, the freezing moments outnumber the warm ones, and before you know it, winter has hit you full force in the face. It's that October to November transition -- the dying whispers of autumn that suddenly give way to the howls of winter -- that has the power to fascinate me. It's a changing of the guard, a surrender to the bleakness that ultimately will surrender, once again, to a rebirth.

Just now, navigating my way along the slick sidewalk, I felt an odd rush of excitement as I dodged perilous puddles and felt the stinging wind against my face. The rain-sleet mixture pounded against my umbrella, held carefully at a 45-degree angle to protect both myself and my bag of books. I always feel so protective of my books. Rain and paper is a sorry mixture. Coffee and paper is even worse. But I love the rain. And I love coffee.

And I love feeling the way I just did, for less than 5 minutes, out in the elements and shivering inside my puffy white coat. I was so cold, so nearly saturated despite my umbrella; yet so alive. Strong weather makes me feel close to something other-worldly; closer to God, perhaps.

My fingers are finally feeling less numb. My coat is mostly dry. But 20 minutes have passed. My short respite has expired. Time to get back out there.

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