My husband, Peter, and I are spending time “up north” with my parents at their cabin by the lake. Fall is late this year. I mentioned this to Peter on the drive north.
“Aren’t the leaves supposed to change color at the same time every year?” I asked. “I thought they changed when the days were shorter.”
Peter didn’t know. We have a lot of conversations involving idle speculation. When we got to my parents’ house, my mother confirmed it was a late fall this year. A meteorologist had announced this on public radio, so it must be true.
We took the pontoon boat out for the last time this season. The lake was still. The sky and the trees were mirrored on the surface. It was disorienting and beautiful.
“It’s a perfect day!” I announced.
The next day was much colder. Everyone got up a little later than usual because the sun didn’t break through our windows and remind us we were overdue for coffee.
“It’s hard to get going on a day like this,” my father commented over coffee.
I had a big conversation scheduled with someone who was interested in my book. The talk went better than I expected, and I was filled with crazy hope. I decided to burn off my nervousness by walking to the boat landing. But, when I got there, I saw I had company.
“Hello!” said one of the three men about my age, piling out of the truck they parked feet from the boat landing.
“It’s your lucky day!” he announced. “We need someone to video us. Do you mind?”
This was such an odd request, I could hardly refuse.
“This is my brother,” he continued, and one of the men nodded. “And this guy’s family used to own a resort that was right here.” He gestured to either side of us.
“We spent every summer here when we were kids. And this was our swimming hole,” he pointed to the boat landing. “So every year we come back at least once to go swimming!”
“It’s not real warm,” I warned.
“I know! But it’s the only day we could all make it here. We just got back from fishing in Canada!”
The other two men looked considerably less excited than their leader, and it was easy to imagine these three little boys, grown old, still following their high-spirited leader.
The man’s brother was down on the dock, nervously looking over the edge.
“I’m not sure we can dive off this,” he said. “It used to be deeper.”
“You used to be shorter,” I told him.
“That’s true,” he agreed.
“OK! Let’s do this!” the leader said.
He handed me his camera, and the men took off their shoes and shirts. The water was in the low 60s and the air was 10 degrees cooler. The other two men looked as if this was a tradition they were willing to let go of. But there was no chance of that.
Moments later, all three were in the lake, hooting and hollering and very proud of themselves. I caught it all on video.
“You guys enjoy the rest of your autumn,” I told them. They told me to do the same.
Fall is coming, but it’s late.
I watched those slightly over middle-aged men—who were just about my age – and I understood their need to do everything they could in the autumn – even if the water was cold, even if the whole idea was a little crazy. We all understood the need to do it while there was time.
Till next time,