A slight chill wakes me from the deep, hard sleep; the cracked window, which has never been fully closed since May, directs a breeze into my nostrils. The air is salted from the nearby ocean, accented with the smell of a dying onion patch across the street. The cold makes me jump to immediately. Flipping the baseboards on with my toe I run downstairs and boil up some tea to soak my Clif bar in. The uniform slides on quickly and with comfort before I step out of the hundred year-old shack. My Texan bones shiver at the sight of my truck’s thermometer, but the past five years of hearty DC winters keep my blood pumping warm and strong.
I shoot across the black tar engulfed in the vibrancy of a dying yet stubborn forest. It is the maddest color I’ve known, but it is past prime; a muted splash of warmth that refuses to bed down at dear Mother’s command. Not the fiery, rebellious color that breaks all rules without heed to foreign guests. No, just like we—the time apportioned humans—these solid, lasting beasts have an adolescent questioning of authority that says how bright one can yell, only to be followed by the muffled sigh that lasts until the cool, frozen tears of God rain down; signifying his own lost longing for jubilant, colorful leaf rebellion.
My aching machine flies down into a soft valley before struggling up a defiant hill.
On my left, you lay stuck beneath a frosty six o’clock growth, you too have given up your wild ways, dear field. The sweet, tongue-dancing taste of your grasses as well as the busy grasshopper chirpings have disappeared. Your grizzled mane has been whacked completely off into a high and tight conformity by some ignorant and hateful farmer. The comforting smell you sent me all summer, through strong inland breezes lays trapped under the heavy, frozen perspiration of the atmosphere. I bid you safe sleeping during these white and lifeless months. I don’t worry, for I know the rage you harbor in winter slumber will explode with the first grasses of spring. Your defiance has more months to build than to exercise, thus the rewards—your presence in my life, my adorations in yours—shall be heavenly.
Eagle Lake, you send shivers as cold as your waters down my trembling spine. All year you are encircled by those who try to reconnect with a three hour outing by bike or foot around your sacrosanct shores. They circle like the turkey vultures above your waters, waiting for you to expose your secrets to them so they can dash back to Concord or Asheville or Atlanta or Pensacola and proclaim your deepest treasures to all the undeserving beasts of the east. You are trapped and shut up from the outside world. Your icy god, the glacier, has created this mountainous sanctuary. Beautiful but hopelessly secluded once the half-hearted leave, you’re ready to share but no one is present. Yet this morning your patience is rewarded, as is mine. My quick glimpse of your steely skin is answered by emphatic shouts of joy that barrel down your valley hitting me between the eyes with the sun casting a final autumn blessing down on us both. We exchange a mutual respect. Nice to finally meet you, dear friend.
Fragrant trodden earth—a perfume of Her own creation fills my nostrils. The mix of dying leaves and past prime needles mingle into a healthy sounding crunch under my feet. The clearness of the day is evidenced in floating arachnid traps, distinguished by cascading rays of chipper, encouraging sunlight. As I inhale, frost forms in the back of my throat, dripping down to my belly, settling in the purest form of water known—literal salivation at the beauty of the day. And the breeze, just beyond crisp and not quite biting yet, is a gentle reminder; a nudge, a warning that says, ‘I, the great embalming white of winter am near, enjoy this day for my fury is held no longer after this defiant autumn treasure before you.’
I stomp my boots, snort back some nose grease and expel it from my mouth. I turn around for a quick glimpse of my surroundings and then open the door to my last day of work at Acadia National park.