November 1, 2010

Autumn Air

The outside of the RV froze almost every night that September.  I piled on sweatshirts, sweaters, and coats before bed. I pulled the blankets up over my head during the night and woke to the sound of water dripping in the morning. The RV would thaw out when the sun finally rose. Most mornings I couldn't feel my toes or the tip of my nose.

I shared the bathroom in the house with the dogs. I can say with unwavering conviction that I would rather share a bathroom with two guys than 2 dogs. Regardless, I was so grateful for that bathroom and the hot shower. I ran the shower on lukewarm to begin, afraid my toes would go into shock if I stepped into hot water, but also afraid the shaking I experienced from the cold would never stop. I stood in that shower every morning and didn't dare to think about my life in terms any larger than that minute in time. My toes would unfreeze, my shaking would subside, and my day would begin. I did not have the capacity to worry about the fact that I was living in an RV, in my supervisor's driveway, in the middle of the mountains, in Vermont. So I didn't.

My supervisor and her husband didn't realize that the propane in the RV was so low that the heat didn't come on at night. When they realized, they looked at me like I had three heads for not saying anything.  "You must have been cold at night."  I think I laughed, out of embarrassment, and told them I just put on "a few extra blankets" with a shrug. They filled the propane tank and that night the RV didn't freeze. I didn't wake up to the dripping noise of it thawing; I could feel my nose and my toes; and when I stepped into that morning shower, I felt like I had won the lottery.

I actually loved that RV and living in my supervisor's driveway, even if it was only for a month. I never did unpack my things from my CRV (the RV was a temporary solution to a vermin-infested apartment), but it still felt like home. My whole office (all five of us) had cook-outs in the backyard on Saturday evenings. We sat by the fire and roasted marshmallows and watched the sun reflect off the pond then slide down the side of the mountain until it was out of sight. My crazed college days had finally ended, and for a few months my life had a slow peacefulness to it.

I moved into my new apartment during the first week of October, a few weeks before the snow fell. I turned the heat on at night so the pipes didn't freeze. My apartment felt smaller than the RV, but with an upstairs and a downstairs, I knew I couldn't afford to heat it all. So, I closed the heavy wooden door at the top of the steps and lived in the few hundred square feet downstairs. I slept on the futon/couch in hooded sweatshirts and piles of blankets. I woke up to Jack Frost's drawings on my windows. The frosted patterns melted in the sun during the day and I opened the windows into the evening. On Sunday nights, my landlady and her manfriend would light a fire in the outdoor fireplace beyond my backdoor and jazz music would float through the air.
"Through my open window streams the cold October night air and jazz music straight out 1920s Harlem. The scent of burning wood from the fire pit rides the cold air inside, and I can’t imagine closing the window now, so I put on a wool sweater and cozy up to my computer. The streamline white iBook seems out of place in my cabin-esque apartment, but it is as comforting to me as the vanilla candles burning nearby." [October, 2005]

That year it snowed a week before Halloween. (It snowed on almost the same day this year, also.) It snowed the way it normally snows in the Vermont mountain communities - in feet rather than inches. We canceled our after school programs and activated the Snow Phone Chain. Although the storm wouldn't produce enough snow to close the mountain, parents still needed to pick up their children as soon as possible. I could hear the kids in the next room singing Jingle Bells, a week before Halloween. I drove home over snowy roads and watched the snowflakes twirl in my headlights.

The snow must have melted by Halloween because I remember brown leaves gathered along the side of the road. Although, I also remember snow before Thanksgiving and the white ground during those moments when my life expanded from enjoying-this-moment-in-time to what-the-hell-am-I-doing-here. When my toes had been frozen since early September, mid-Novemeber felt like mid-winter.
Today I stood outside in a t-shirt, after discarding my sweatshirt. The sun still felt too warm for an October afternoon. I haven't experienced a fall here in nine years, and I had forgotten that fall takes its time here. I have been unexpectedly nostalgic for the falls of Western New York, Vermont, and Maine. Or perhaps expectantly nostalgic, because those were seasons in my life when I knew what the upcoming year held. But today I realized how wonderful the warm air can feel in October and how calming it can feel to not know what this year holds. Unexpected and pleasant.


  1. I loveloveloved this, as per usual.
    Someday you, me & Nicole will have a grand adventure and, hopefully, live to tell the tale in writing.
    It's going to happen.

  2. Yes, please. Already looking forward to it!