Chrysanthemums

Yesterday was a bright autumn day cool but not cold, white light surrounded everything making the edges crisp. The traffic was light as I drove to the store.  I took the same route as always but somehow managed to not notice the Buddhist temple on my way past when I drove to the grocery store. Maybe it was the sun in my eyes; I lost my sunglasses and the prescription on my glasses is old so my vision isn’t the best when driving these days. It wasn’t until my return trip from the grocery store that I noticed the chrysanthemums bursting through the bright green chain link fence surrounding the Buddhist temple. They must have stood three feet high; their stalks were bent under the weight of the enormous yellow curly-tipped blossoms; they looked like little suns glowing there against the green at the feet of the giant concrete Buddha. The gold Korean characters on the reader board shining in the sun I wished, not for the first time, that I could read the sign but I imaged it said the name of the temple and the community that supports it. After I passed I imagined there wouldn’t be anything else to take note of as I have previously mentioned the orange leaves falling off the trees and collecting in the gutters along the sides of the road and the bare branches standing out against the clear blue sky.  There are fewer birds as most have flown off for the winter to warmer locals and the Tundra swans that inhabit the fields on either side of the highway, despite the coyote decoys the farmers put out, have yet to arrive. I noticed though that the longhorn rancher at the corner of Highway 47 and B Street managed to get the roof of his barn repaired before the rains begin in earnest which I imagine must be a relief.  Our barn is so far past the point of repair the floorboards grow lichen and moss, perfect bedding for the mice who call it home. Further on, past the detour signs, deep on to the gravel I noticed the fields that were turned and bare a few weeks ago now sport the bright green stubble of cover crops growing in like a teenager’s spotty beard.  They will thicken though over the coming weeks and soon the fields will be full again and will hold the topsoil in place when the really heavy rains begin. The afternoon light had begun to thin and the air grew cool enough that the edges of my windows began to fog. The broken seal located somewhere between my backseat and trunk lets in just enough moisture that there is a low level of fog in my car most of the time.  The kitty litter the man at the auto parts store told me to put in a tray on the floor of my backseat doesn’t seem to be helping much but I’m not giving up yet.  I turned the defroster on high and turned the radio up so I could hear it over the fan.  As I looked up from the radio, I caught sight of the red sugar maple at the bottom of the hill.  The last of the afternoon sun was caught amongst its bright red leaves so that it glowed.  I slowed to a stop and rolled down my steamy window to get a better look.  Cool air poured in and mingled with the warm air from the defroster. Somewhere someone had a fire going, the air smelled of woodsmoke. A truck pulled up behind me but seeing me parked there was quick to pull around me and speed past leaving me in a cloud of dust.  I rolled up my window to avoid it, took a last look at the tree and began to make the drive up the switch back. I drove through the tunnel made by the overhanging maples, through the last of the day’s dappled sunlight toward home.

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