October Surprise

Every once in a while, I walk somewhere new, where I’m not sure in which direction the roads might run – or if the road continues at all. There’s something about the unexpected that makes an otherwise uneventful walk a tad better. Because I found a new combination of places this morning, I walked much further than I intended. But because I encountered no one, I walked the roads as if I owned them. In a sense, when I’m the only one on them, I suppose that I do. At one point, I smelled the faint odor of tobacco and thought I could discern the orange glow of a cigarette, but I couldn’t be certain. I waved to the dark place containing the tip of the glowing cigarette and continued on. It amuses me to think that whoever was standing there was startled by the idea that I might be able to see him or her in the dark. Yes, it’s not smart to wander unfamiliar roads before the sun rises to greet me – but it is the only way I can be the sole owner for a brief moment.

I could see the horses to my left shortly after I started walking. The bright moon above gave their silhouettes a pronounced presence against the slight hill they were standing on. It seemed like I could walk up and reach out across the brush and touch them. On the way back, I stopped to approach the gate near the road. The white horse with dark flanks turned and came up to the fence. Unwisely, I reached out my hand, expecting the horse to eat at least two of my fingers. Instead, it pushed its head down across the gate and rubbed the side of my hand and arm. He stood, patiently, as I rubbed the side of his head with one hand, then two. I agree that it’s unwise to do this before 5 a.m. but in my defense, I think that we parted as friends. Although that horse may indeed bite me the next time I reach out my hand, I will be able to recall a surreal October morning when he dropped his guard and said hello.

In one spot, near a wide, open creek bed, I passed an imposing manor. Much of its profile was lit by arcing security lights. They might have been bragging lights, too, given the scope and intricacy of the house they were illuminating. The house was enormous, with a rolling yard and a gate which cost more than a new kidney. Oddly, though, the towering iron gates were wide open, as if they were an invitation to me to come inside and have a grilled cheese sandwich. The house seemed like it would have been a better fit in the countryside of England. Against the driveway, there was a small street sign. It probably said, “Don’t even think about it.” I took a picture of it but all I have to prove it is a large white blob, as its reflective surfaced rebelled from being captured in a picture.

As I turned from the apex of my walk, I discovered that I had been walking up a very long hill, imperceptibly taking me toward a rise I couldn’t see as I walked. Off in the distance, I could see a tower with its blinking warning light. The wind, already blowing with some force, escalated and began to whip at me at that elevation. It was a beautiful sight, looking toward the distant skyline and feeling the wind’s invitation to take flight and disappear into the night. Like most things, the view differed drastically coming from the opposite direction.

The full moon was a couple of nights ago, so the moon above wasn’t full, but it certainly shone brightly. The sky was intermittently broken by swaths of cotton ball and gauzy clouds. All the details of the early morning were starkly illuminated by strong shadows.

While I was admiring the sky, a dog materialized from either Hell or the dark shadows of the treeline along the road. He lunged and barked viciously. The only reason I didn’t get bit was because I jumped toward him, ready to stick my hand down his throat and yank his innards out through his mouth. He retreated for a moment. I elegantly turned and ran. Being an adult, though, I planned my vengeance. Before heading back toward the spot of the dog’s assault, I snapped a large branch off of one of the trees lining the road. I pulled off the little limbs and twigs of the stick as I walked back. As I neared the house where the canine resided, I readied my stick. Again, instead of barking in advance, the dog waited and I almost missed his silhouette by the edge of the road. As he jumped out to chase me, I stopped, raising the stick above me. I was going to show that dog what a headful of stars looked like. I’m not sure what changed the dog’s mind, though, because he continued to angrily bark as he ran past me and across a wide expanse of yard behind me. I put the stick in the driveway where the dog had originally emerged, as a gift to the owner.

Since the roads were desolate, I decided to go shirtless. Not since I was on the cover of “Least Likely” magazine have I wandered the streets in such a state. The breeze was simply too pleasant and I decided that if I did accidentally encounter someone on the roads at that hour, they would be too startled to object. I walked mile after mile, feeling the air on me and the trees rustling their approval.

As tired as I was, I stood near my car, feeling the wind howl around me. Someone watching me might have been concerned for my mental health. Unlike that hypothetical observer, though, I’ll remember this morning for a long time, perhaps forever, and most likely for reasons which might seem inconsequential to you. It was the perfect October morning, before the encroaching cold, before the bonfires on Friday evenings, and in advance of the hordes of costumes scampering around the streets.

I wish you could have been there, given that I don’t possess the words to convey the sublime pleasure of the morning. I could almost see the glittery magic dust in the air as I sighed and got in my car, returning to own version of normalcy and daily duties.

In my mind, though, I’m still standing on that unknown road, at the top of an immense hill, as the wind prepares to give me wings.

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