Now also in the valley night a skunk emerged from his underground burrow to hunt pale beetle grubs in the dark. A great horned owl folded his wings and dropped from the sky, and the two met on the bloodied surface of earth. Spreading over a distance, the air from that spot thinned frail sweetness, a tinctured wind that bespoke real creatures and real encounters at the edge . . . events, events. Over my head black hunting beetles crawled up into the high limbs of trees, killing more caterpillars and pupae than they would eat.
It's a good, coming-of-autumn passage. As I read it, I can almost smell the leaves mulching on the ground. There's a skunk, an owl, beetles and blood. Add a girl with a camera running around in a panic, and it could be a scene from The Blair Witch Project. Dillard is always aware of the changes wrought by the seasons.
It is Labor Day in the United States. The unofficial end of summer fun and return to the schedules that rule most of our lives: algebra and band practice and Sunday school and grading and dance lessons. Throw in some snow storms and arctic blasts, and that's life in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for the next nine months.
I slept in this morning until well past ten o'clock. I haven't done that in . . . Actually, I can't remember the last time I did that. When I go to bed at night, I always set an alarm. Not last night. It was strange to wake up to sunlight filtering through my bedroom curtains.
And I didn't even jump out of bed to confront the day. I climbed out from under the covers, had a bowl of cereal, and watched the movie Little Miss Sunshine with my daughter. She'd never seen it before. I didn't get dressed until after noon. I felt lazy. I haven't felt lazy in a long time, either.
This weekend, as a matter of fact the whole summer, seems to have flown by. I'm not sad about that. My favorite season of the year is autumn. I love the colors, the holidays. Halloween and Thanksgiving. My kids are obviously not excited to return to the school bus tomorrow morning, but they're ready for a change, also, I think.
Tonight, I will help my wife get my son to bed earlier than he's been to bed in three months. Tomorrow, after my kids are safely on their way to school, I will help my wife make some chocolate chip cookies for my son and oatmeal butterscotch cookies for my daughter. That's our first-day-of-school ritual.
Time is flying for Saint Marty. Pretty soon, he'll be playing Christmas songs in his car. Actually, he's been doing that since March.