AUTHOR: Beth TITLE: DATE: 9/24/2004 10:52:00 AM ----- BODY:


Here it is, the first foggy morning, shrouding everyday fire hydrants, children running for the bus stop in backpacks, in shadow and cloud, fogging the windows of your car before you unlock it and beat back the morning with the defrost button. Here it is, certain trees among the flock too anxious for the autumn gala, showing up overdressed among their green brethren in yellow, red, orange, copper--and refusing to apologize for the faux pas. Here I am, chancing on a coworker's five-month-old grandson brought into the office, first tickling his pea-sized toes, then letting his little fingers, so delicate and unused the nails are transparent, making him look like he's wearing pink nail polish, touch my fingertip, watching robin's egg eyes widen and go glassy with the surprise of sensation. I'm a sucker for babies. Give me long enough with a child under 18 months and sooner or later my arms start to ache, starting with my shoulders, spreading to my biceps, working its way between the bones in my elbows, twisting and cramping through my forearms, propelling my hands forward, till I have to hold them, simply must grab them gently by their pudgy little bellies and pull them close, their gawking faces bobbing by my shoulder, staring at me cautiously, then reaching out with a palm no bigger than a silver dollar to softly touch my face, letting a smile break across their face like a miracle, like a wordless expression of everything that makes humanity worthwhile. Here it is again, the phases of life declaring themselves in the surroundings, from sunset off the water of the Merrimack River to the blushing pink of miniscule, transparent fingernails, to the quiet absolution that is the soft grey fog, the faint smell of woodsmoke around the edges of morning. My moods are strange, often seizing me like a craving for a particular food; my brain appears to have its own demanding stomach. Lately I've been overwhelmed with the need to go apple picking. I can't wait to shush along through barely-kempt grass at an orchard, toting a glorified shopping bag, reaching up to pluck the raw, natal apples down from branches, here and there polishing the white film of dirt and dust and dried-up dew obscuring their ruby skins, stepping over their browned fallen comrades in the shade. Spring, with its plastic eggs and chocolate rabbits and obscenely emerald polymer grasses in day-glo mass-produced baskets, is the designated period for re-birth; but give me fall. Give me the warm, cuddled-up feeling of crisp mornings and whispering, chilly evenings; give me the perverse bursts of color in a season of death; give me silly little babies that were barely-sentient pupae in the spring just now beginning to open their eyes; comfort me with apples.