Saturday, September 23, 2006
The first day of fall has arrived as it has, for me, 46 times before. Celestially, the day does, indeed, have significance. But to the casual observer, to the maples, oaks, and locusts that line the river, to the heron, egret, painted turtle, beaver, and largemouth bass that I have watched with intent these past few weeks, this day is but a continuation. The long light of summer days has waned and the internal signals of preparation hasten. Winter will be here quickly. With it will come bitter cold, wind, storms, ice and darkness. But before everything becomes locked in the grip of January and February, we have the welcome chill and firey color of October to witness.
I arrived at the put-in today and was followed almost immediately by an elderly gent in his convertable Triumph. I noticed as soon as he switched off his ignition that he was listening to Bruce Sprinsteen singing about his hometown and it got me to thinking. Gladwynne, Pennsylvania; Boxford, Massachusetts; Concord, New Hampshire; Middletown, Rhode Island; Claremont, California; Durham, New Hampshire; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Simsbury, Connecticut - all places that I have lived for more than year - which is home? What IS home? To me it's more of a feeling than a place. Home is the river, woods, an open field in late afternoon light, beaches where the sea takes back what comes from the highest peaks are all more like home to me than some dwelling on a street with a number and a name.
This morning I awoke in Dublin, New Hampshire. I was there to see my younger brother who has been away from his home - his wife and three young boys - for the better part of the summer. He will be there - in his hometown - until tomorrow when he flies back to Fort Riley in Kansas to prepare for his trip to Baghdad with his army unit for a year of service, work, conflict(?), and, hopefully, fast days and nights leading to a return home - safe and sound - a return to being a father, a husband, a town manager, and a friend to other hometown people.
Does a hometown keep one afloat? And what about me - feeling as though no town is HOMETOWN? Does my time on the river, literally afloat in the hand of the buoyant water beneath, represent home for me? It feels that way. Sane, secure, relaxed, and able to think clearly and with a freshness that is difficult to find at a desk pushing pages and papers, I am at home on the river, along the trail, sitting on a log listening to the white-throated sparrow calling to me to settle where I am at that moment.
Springsteen's craft with words and notes was able to elicit many thoughts this first day of autumn. I'm into this journey now and it is apparent that it will bring something new each day. I know this because I have seen the changes a New England autumn can bring. I have seen them more than forty times. The adventure lies in what appears each moment as the river meanders into time that awaits ahead.