Chapman: Summer through ‘autumn eyes’
A recent evening brought a range of emotions. It happens every year, but seldom this early. A cool breeze swept through the apartment as temperatures flirted with forties, rendering the window unit moot.
This soon? It isn’t like I didn’t see it coming. The sun slowly began its yearly demise more than a month ago, inching away earlier each evening; an ever-weakening seance of rays soon to be eerily eclipsed by the subzero slumber.
The crisp scent of fall air and campfire hints of holidays and forces one to ponder if he or she made enough of the short season of sun. Reflection can be brutal, but not this year.
This summer was as full as any I’ve experienced. With a pair of autumn eyes beside me at every stop, I realized a new freedom – one only realized with the warm fingers of another intertwined with my own.
I’m not sure if I kept the promise to show my Mariel a summer of adventure, but we sure as hell tried. After about three years of long-distance love, it was time to hit the road together.
Our first lengthy trip of the summer took us to Red Rocks Amphitheater on the periphery of Denver. With a group of friends, we saw Gary Clark Jr. and Tedeschi Trucks Band in one of the most beautiful outdoor music venues in the world. Clark and Derek Trucks are two of the best blues guitarists and their strings sang sweetness throughout a night beginning with light rain and a double rainbow.
The next day found us more than 13,000 feet high in the Rockies. Our lungs filled with some of the planet’s cleanest air as every sense was overwhelmed. Eyes plunged down the valleys of pines. I wondered why such immense natural beauty doesn’t guide our souls daily. The occasional rapid-fire chorus of woodpeckers echoed like a massive creaking door – pushed open to reveal yet another staggering cliff at the next switchback.
The next trip took us back through South Dakota to see one of country music’s last living legends. Eighty-one-year-old Willie Nelson played Deadwood as if he were 31. He sang classics like “Crazy” and “Whiskey River” and picked solos on his guitar, Trigger, for every tune.
We camped in the Black Hills at Hay Creek Ranch. We fell in love with the horse ranch’s unofficial mascots – five friendly kittens. As much as we wanted to take one home, no man, cat, horse or beetle should be taken from those magical woods. Every night since, I’ve thought about falling asleep in that grove of pristine pines with a cascading creek steps away and my lady clinging to fight a slight chill (or was I the one clinging?).
Devils Tower nearly stole that trip. Wyoming. Who knew?
The summer wasn’t limited to the road. Campfires with friends and scanning the prairie merited considerable time. I enjoyed seeing Mariel join in my fondness for the bright canola fields behind cattails in the sloughs. We savored stormy skies from the west. Dark clouds reached out with wispy extensions like scraggly goatees of hungover drunkards ready to unleash fury.
As summer waned, we escaped the never-ending drain of deadlines and daily nonsense for a couple hours on a cool evening. As we sat about 15 feet up a Ponderosa Pine, in one of my favorite nearby oases, I was taken by the glow of Mariel’s eyes shortly before dusk. The rich amber toward the outside of the iris turns to a warm gold near the pupil and served as a reminder that the warmth of summer cannot end. Those autumn eyes will keep me plenty warm in the cold months to come.
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