Don't remember who it was right now, but I know this--she was young. I remember that because of the tremendous speed at which she negotiated the stairway to the basement, where I'm sitting right now. It was a dance that left me slack-jawed, a madcap flurry of feet awhirlin', and I haven't forgotten it because that hearty speed was somewhere close to twenty years behind anything I could have ever done. I'm an old guy with substandard knees. I don't race anything anymore, not even a clock.
Back surgery ten years ago left me with a discernable foot flop that brought an end to my many years of jogging, but then running was always questionable for a man of my, as we say, "body type." Who knows what all that jarring did to knees that long ago already spent whole double-headers in a stiff crouch behind home plate?
And I never did move fast. I remember a kid, a friend, telling me, in high school, that I'd do just fine if I'd take the piano off my back. A coach--and he liked me--once told me I ran way too long in one place. My mother never explained it to me, so I had to learn on my own--I wasn't built for speed.
What I'm saying is, I don't move all that fast, never have, never will. But I'm retired now, so speed itself is stunning and I was simply astounded the way this young lady, who was looking at our new house, Fred-Astair-ed the basement steps. It was a thing of beauty.
I say that now because as of yesterday afternoon time is slowing even more. It's dark as night outside these big windows now--can't see a thing. But by the time I'm finished, the earth will tip just enough to reveal something glorious and little ghostly, our first snow. It came down yesterday after a light rain, delivered in fleecy clumps that seemed almost doughy, whipped just slightly by a wind so fragile most people here would barely think of it as a breeze.
So what's black as night right now out my window is really alabaster, and when the sun rises what's out there is Iowa land that'll be seriously beautiful.
I met an old friend for lunch yesterday at a cafe in Hospers when it started. Both of us had the time, so lunch spread itself into a long and warm conversation; and when we left we ran for our cars because the petulant snow was thick and wet as a slap in the face.
I took highway 60 home, thinking the four-lane would deliver me safely, but I drove like an old man, unsure of myself, as if the concrete were a stairway. The road was furrowed, but fairly well-traveled; and our little Tracker--not much more than a golf cart--floated away a bit on turns. I wasn't punching a clock so I took it easy, took it slow, a nuisance, I'm sure, to the cars that passed me as if I was holding up real progress.
And then we all came up on an 18-wheeler jacknifed in the median, and I suddenly remembered that to some cultures old men and their crone wives are still looked upon as founts of wisdom, not impediments. "So there, kiddies," I said.
First snow is always bittersweet. When, at harvest, corn leaves scud over the road in a gust, you just know winter can't be far behind--winter cold, winter snow. Still, when that first snow comes, like it did yesterday, it can make even a brand new house like ours feel as homey as a nest in what Emerson so wonderfully called "the tumultuous privacy of storm."
And it's beautiful. What I see now out this huge and blessed wall of windows is inky darkness and a few bejeweled farm lights. It could be summer out there, for all I can see.
But it's winter and this morning there's snow, the first time. In a while, God himself will use dawn's own deft hands to raise the veil and bless the virgin world with light.
By March, I'll take it all back. In April I'll shake my fist at the snowy heavens. But right now, this morning's thanks is for a bright new world outside my door.
Don't worry. I'm an old man. I won't do anything stupid. I'll take my time.
This morning's sun on the Alton pond.