Thursday, October 10, 2013

Light and landscape

“All our actions take their hue from the complexion of the heart, as landscapes their variety from light.” –Francis Bacon

My 70th birthday fell on Labor Day this year, so I’m more than a month into my eighth decade. I live in a two-story apartment, running up and downstairs many times a day, yet I feel better than just a year ago: the ache in my right hip is gone and I’m lighter in spirit if not on the scales.

After more than fifty years of Oregon winters with gray in fifty shades, California’s abundant sunshine makes my world happier. And, as the quote from Francis Bacon implies, landscapes change with each shift of light. At midday, distant hills and canyons hang from a dusty sky, flattened by mirage of heat and slant of sun. In the landscape of my mind, I sprawl on the floor in front of our old black and white TV and watch my cowboy heroes ride:

Cisco gallops after bandidos. Pancho bounces along behind, sombrero flapping. The Masked Man sits secure as Silver rears and paws the air, then thunders down the narrow trail. Dum ta da dum ta da dum dum dum. Scout and Tonto slide up in a cloud of dust. From a hillock, Hopalong Cassidy watches, reins held loose. He smiles and pulls his hat low. Topper picks the way down the trail, tail sweeping graceful side to side.

Though I adored them all, I loved Hoppy most. He was gentle yet had a fierce sense of justice. He didn’t drink, smoke or kiss the girls. My folks indulged me with the entire Hopalong outfit: hat, skirt and vest – even a holster and ‘six-shooter’ cap gun complete with a box of rolled caps. In a photo of me at about seven, my permed hair peeks in frizzy clumps from under the hat, framing my ecstatic grin.

And then the sunlight shifts. The mountains reshape themselves and I’m brought back to now.

Now is October 10, 2013. Yesterday in SLO we had our first rain in weeks – a mere dribble measuring .04 inches. Still, I inhaled the scent of fall and savored the damp coolness during my morning walk.

I recently found a quote that captured my feelings about autumn in Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. The novel is about New York, and though New Yorkers would dispute this, New York has no corner on the seasons. The part that resonated for me: “Come September, despite the waning hours, despite the leaves succumbing to the weight of gray, autumnal rains, there is a certain relief to having the long days of summer behind us, and there’s a paradoxical sense of rejuvenation in the air.”

And I do feel energized, eager for whatever comes next. Of course, what comes next after October is November, and then December. I smile and remember what the teacher in Frazz, a comic strip by Jeff Mallett, said: I never trust a month that ends in ‘BRR.’