Note: Two of my worthless and underserving sons live in Boulder, Colorado. And I do not.
While walking the dogs this morning in the chill air, I began thinking about the progress of the four seasons during my boyhood in New Jersey, and how each one passed into the next in ways both measured and predictable. We had serious blizzards from December through March, spring inevitably began its lovely and welcome advent in mid- April, torrid summer did not arrive until early July, and autumn generally began in October. Then, dwelling upon the glories of childhood autumns, I fondly remembered the mysterious Indian summers that sometimes occurred in late October and how I would sit on the porch steps of our house on Raymond Street and marvel at the smokey air.
Many of my favorite autumnal memories from those distant years involve the row of birch trees that stood in our front yard. I was “once myself a swinger of birches,” long before I had read anything written by Robert Frost, but what I most clearly recall about those slender trees is not their resilience but their foliage. In autumn it quite naturally turned golden, but from early spring until the branches of the trees were bare in late November, I was enthralled by the delicate movement of the leaves whenever they rustled in the wind. On such occasions my grandmother told me that the leaves were “quaking,” and I always thought that was the perfect word to describe their tremulous motion on breezy days. Today I associate the word “quaking” not with birches but with aspens, but when I was just a young boy, my botanical horizon had not yet expanded sufficiently to have included in its circumference those beautiful trees so adored by people who reside near the Rocky Mountains.
Such were my musings while walking the dogs, until I unexpectedly experienced what might be called an “inspiration,” were that term not too lofty for what was actually no more than an idle fancy suddenly spun into being by a series of vagrant imaginings. Idle and vagrant though this whimsical notion may have been, its implications happily preoccupied me for several minutes, and I am delighted to share it with you in the form of three intriguing questions. What if your father, when he was an eight-year-old boy sitting on his porch steps, had been approached by one of the many gypsy women who then resided in nearby Paterson and who claimed to be clairvoyant? What if she had sat down beside me and offered to read my fortune not in the customary tea leaves but in the quaking tree leaves? What destiny do you suppose she might have foreseen for me, decades hence, Colorado sons mine?