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Slowing down time

by Jeff Sykes

It’s 85 degrees outside in the last week of October as I type this. The sunshine has been glorious the last couple of weeks. As long as I can remember, actually, since those first few days of the month when it was rainy and cold. Jeff Sykes Along about the middle of the month I said to a friend that this was the kind of weather that would get me in deep trouble each fall semester when I was away at college in the western part of North Carolina.

Each year it played out the same.

We’d start the semester full of hope and discipline, well what discipline we could muster in those days, and dedicated to the proposition that all classes are important to attend.

It was a fine proposition through those first few excited weeks. When I was dedicated to being a scholar. When I was dedicated to laying a groundwork for future success. It would carry me through that first September rain and the inevitable cold snap that comes along about the end of the first week of October.

But then this would happen. The air would lighten and the sky turn a pure shade of blue, like a cobaltfilter added in a photo editing software. The sun would blaze warm, but not too hot, catching all those wannabe hipsters who broke out their snow boots and sweaters off guard as the temperature brought shorts and a thin shirt back into style.

Yes, the sun would hang like a marigold high in the sky, warming the crisp leaves in a dry breeze, and there was no way on earth I could possibly stay focused on school. I tried it all. I tried to take my classes early, so that my afternoons would be free to roam. I tried to space out my classes so I’d have a few hours gap in the day to enjoy the freedom of being young.

Inevitably that led to bumping into a group of friends heading out for a hike, or whatnot, and I was ghost.

October was originally the eighth month in the Roman calendar, taking its name from the Latin word, octo, meaning eight. Julius Caesar added two months, January and February, but October retained its original name, as did September.

So today it was 85 degrees outside and as I was standing looking out across the perfect sky I could have sworn it was springtime. The air felt the same. The sky looked the same. Except in April when you get that first really warm day you get a hint of all the summer bliss that’s to come. I wanted that feeling today, but instead I knew that it was fleeting, and that soon the snow boots and heavy sweaters and the fingerless gloves holding a warm pumpkin spice latte will be all the rage.

This past weekend, though, I was able to mow my grass in shorts as my son dodged bees in the yard. Sometimes I forget to mow it short one good time before the leaves fall, and that makes raking all the more difficult. But if you cut it short, the rake glides right across the top, moving those pesky leaves right to the edge of the street for the city truck to come along and suck up to wherever.

We drove to Winston-Salem on Sunday for the Arts for Arts Sake festival on Trade Street. Winston-Salem was in all its full glory that day, and I remembered what I loved so much growing up there. We later walked around Old Salem with crisp yellow leaves making a soft path atop the rippled cobblestone walkways.

The richly colored Moravian buildings offset the fall earth tones overhead, with the rich blue of the perfect sky cracking intermittently between the tree tops. I caught myself wondering why I ever wanted to leave such a place, but then I remembered the deep pains of personal experience.

October is either winter’s veneer or summer’s last stand. Either way it is often a beautiful time, much like April, where fleeting memories can remind us that the pleasure of the moment is often hard to exceed.

At a writer’s conference in Winston- Salem a few weeks back an esteemed author said that it’s often not the past we seek to reclaim, but the present we are afraid of losing.

Today’s autumnal bliss can’t remain golden much longer. But if you take the time to slow it down, and really appreciate the beauty, it passes a little slower. !

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