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The Farthermost View

Essays and Stories




Pippin in an Enchanted Forest

It's mid-September, the time of year when great explosions of yellow fungi appear
around the base of dead trees, seemingly overnight. Nearby, and all around, clumps of pale Indian pipes are pushing up through the pine needles. And in one patch of dappled sunlight under a pitch pine over on Portanimicut Road, the Rescue Squad and I came upon a teeny-tiny fairyland, a mossy greensward scattered with weensy conical-capped mushrooms. I peered at it, half-expecting to see a leprechaun, or at least a hookah-smoking caterpillar, come out from behind an acorn. The dogs peered at it as if they were about to lift their legs, so I pulled them away and we walked on toward Route 28. Which, because it's mid-September, is less busy than it was a month ago; and which will get less busy still as the days shorten and the mushrooms shrivel and blacken and wither away.


It's the time of year I like best. I probably say that with every change of season, although
the move from summer to fall may become more and more favorite as summers become hotter and more humid. There's something exhilarating about waking up at 2 am because I'm cold. The first time, anyway. If I haven't paid attention and added a blanket in the morning, waking up cold the next night is merely irritating and leads to an hour or two, or three, of self-beratement.


It's a time of change: the first night cold enough to close the windows, the first time
it's dark enough to turn on the lights at the breakfast table, time to turn off the dehumidifier in the basement, time to change from floppy linen pants to my comfortable, comforting blue jeans for the morning walk.


When I slip into jeans, a sweatshirt, and full-sized socks, I become my real self once
again. Summer clothes are fine, but I get tired of drifting around in skimpy flesh-revealing items, and feeling as if I need to pay attention to the appearance of my toenails. In the cooling days of mid-September I can finally shlump around in my jeans again. And I'm not talking about those skinny ones.


The summer people with their goldendoodles and King Charles Cavalier Portuguese ridgebacks are gone (though the weekend people persist). Boats are still bobbing around at their moorings down off the town landing, but most of them will disappear around Columbus Day, and then the occasional ducks and a stray seal or two will have the bay to themselves.


I can't say the traffic has eased: two school buses, their passengers segregated by age and time, pass us on weekday mornings. And construction has ramped up all around the neighborhood: not only are humungous houses and three-car garages and in-ground swimming pools continuing to usurp the land where once bayberry and blueberry and various handsome invasives grew, but trucks and SUVs full of working people charge up and down the road, keeping Pippin in attack mode. At least summer people don't add much early-morning traffic, unless they're heading out for doughnuts or coffee or to catch the early Freedom Ferry to Nantucket.


As I write this, we're gearing up for strikes and demonstrations across the country to
bring attention to the climate crisis, though I'm not sure what "attention" will accomplish. Everything I've mentioned here is subject to the changes that are happening. So eat, drink, walk in the woods, shlump around in your jeans, and be merry. For the times, they are a-changing.

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