I checked the calendar, not ready to flip the page to October. The warm sun of September waved a windy goodbye overnight. Greeted by a chilled morning, I turned up the heat, poured a rousing cup of coffee, and noticed a clear beaded spider web looking like a crystal doily decorating the outside window frame. Scattered across the lawn, dancing leaves did a slow waltz, blown by gusts of rhythm from the northeast breeze. A squirrel tried to carry away an apple dropped from the neighbor’s tree, as a blue jay screeched, fluttering his wings in a battle for the fallen prize. The nighttime stormy rain jostled branches, now hanging over the fence like neighborhood gossips, apples worn in autumn’s snazzy dress display.
Laughing to myself, I wondered if picking one of the apples would taste like temptation. One bite from the hanging “forbidden fruit” of the past, rain-washed, a gift in the seasonal storm. Closing my eyes, I felt the soft touch of long ago kisses. Yes, I would like to have another bite of that apple, the one with giggles, holding the promise of glowing tomorrows. I open my eyes, once again I am alone. I have watched leaves fall seventy-two autumns, reflecting memories in time. I am not ready to forget past calendars changing seasons.
Maybe I would pull a poisoned apple off the tree, take a bite like Snow White, fall into a deep sleep until a magic cure-all reverses the spell. A slow awakening came long ago when I climbed a mountain of emotion, and with tiny steps finally accepted myself. I discovered the star of my “fairy tale” has always been me, weathering a variety of stormy changes. I am the pot-of-gold at the end of my rainbow. Another seasonal bite of an apple, I move closer toward the final unknown “happy ending.”
The tree stands tall, reaching the sky like a wand touching a tunnel of time. Once again I am a child, on a chilly autumn day, racing into the warm kitchen smelling the aroma of Mom’s apple pie, dripping hot, steamy balls of buttery cinnamon onto the sheet tray under the pan. I still salivate remembering the taste of warm, pastry crusted sliced apples, covered in fresh whipped cream. For years we promised to write down her recipe, stopped only between bites, by the words, “We’ll do it next time.” The one thing I know for sure, she whispered to me one holiday, “The secret to flakey crusts is extra shortening.” Now, when I bite into a hard-as-shoe-leather pie crust, I wish the baker knew Mom’s secret ingredient.
The shorter days of October allow earlier sunsets to hide bare branches in dark shadows. The last calendar day of the month sets aside time to celebrate fall harvests. Memories burst in flashes of long ago Halloween trick or treating, fresh caramel dipped apples on a stick, gently placed into a sack held open by a friendly masked invader. I still can hear the rustle of fallen leaves as I walked door-to-door, anxious on the path home to reveal the bag filled with tasty treasures. Now, opening the refrigerator, I see the recently purchased bottle of apple cider. Pouring a few cups into a small sauce pan, I add a couple of cinnamon sticks, turn up the heat, and smell the magic of the season. Taking slow sips, I taste time in the juice of autumn’s apples.
April Ryan is a poet and also an essayist as well as a longtime Washington resident.
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