A Two-Part Story - Autumn’s Arrival And The Ongoing Mystery Of The Shoes
By Ken DeLaat
By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather
And autumn’s best of cheer.
– Helen Hunt Jackson, September, 1830-1885
Part I- Ahhh September. Admittedly there’s always a bit of mourning accompanying the 9th month, since it spells the end of summer, however I’ve always maintained this was a leftover, a remnant of impressionable days when...
...the one and only thing September meant was a return to school. Not that I was totally anti-school….well not totally….it was just that I was really, really pro-summer…. primarily because it meant no school, of course but hey, no sense in focusing on that.
As the years passed the late August ennui faded and truthfully most years there exists a readiness for the glorious season of autumn the month ushers in. I know, it’s still technically summer until the equinox but once the kids are in school, football, soccer and cross country begin their seasons, and everywhere you go you’re inundated by the scent of pumpkin spice, believe me it is fall.
I just returned from a road trip to the center section of the state for a two day conference and though it seems like just a couple weeks back I was witnessing the glory of the tree buds transforming into leaves there were a smattering of spots along M-46 with colors strewn about the foliage.
The first time was just outside of Edmore when smack dab in the middle of the duet I was sharing with Bob Seger my eyes caught a glimpse of orange. There was uncertainty at first, mostly because it was at a crucial part of the song ‘Beautiful Loser’ and the vocal chords were working it pretty hard to hit the high notes so perhaps my observational powers were running at less than full capacity.
With the tune at an end a bit more vigilance was awarded to the roadside and before long there was a definite blaze of orange tucked inside a green wrap. A maple that appeared to be in good health just seemingly ready to show off a little early color.
The rest of the trip became a bit of a hunt for other signs of the approaching arrival of the autumnal season.
We were at a college town and it was the first day of classes for students, the marching band was practicing, the campus was packed with wandering degree seekers, and while one could add that the stores are all filled with fall type stuff, that ship sailed right after the sparklers moved on and will be replaced by Christmas stuff any day now so that doesn’t really count for anything.
On the return trip home more color began to appear, albeit still quite sporadically placed and some of the corn that had stood so tall began to droop a bit. A field of sunflowers looked decidedly past its peak and a small market I stopped at had an abundance of apples.
There was no doubting it. Fall was beginning to inch its way into the Mitten.
But hey, no need to mourn over the loss of summer. She will return in all her glory and give the weather-haters a substitute complaint for the cold when she turns on the heat.
As for now we can look forward to the grandest of all seasons with its radiant colors, cool campfire nights, and all the sweater-wearing, cider sipping, tailgating, apple munching, leaf raking, soup slurping, pumpkin picking one can possibly cram into its all too short season.
And best of all?
No school for this guy.
Part II- On my return trip as I was pulling south on business 127 it happened again. As far as I can tell from the copious notes I have kept….well not written down notes or anything but kind of ‘in my head’ notes…. it was the 87th shoe spotting of the year, which did not include the winter months when other than an occasional mislaid boot the footwear remained pretty well hidden.
While some may call it a peculiar obsession it remains my belief that something is afoot (pun intended) when it comes to the mystery of the lone shoes populating the sides of our highways.
It would be easy to ignore this phenomena but disregarding the utter obviousness of a connection to something greater than mere abandoned footwear can only bring trouble in the long run. It was mid afternoon and I felt compelled to share this observation however past history has made me inclined not to call Lil since the memory of the time I interrupted her in what apparently was a rather important meeting to tell of the red pump I had discovered on the Ford Freeway ramp still lingers.
She did not exactly embrace the news with the same level of enthusiasm I might have anticipated.
“Look, just don’t call me at work anymore about shoes, ok?”
Though a couple of decades have since passed I’ve tried to corral my need to share these sightings to when she is in the car and even then one can only hear just so many sighs before one gets the drift that any interest there may have once been has waned considerably.
I ended up calling our answering machine and said “Reddish brown loafer, tassels, sideways, about 3 miles south of Mt. Pleasant."
I played it back when I got home and after hearing it, there was just one thought came into my thoughts.......
What, pray tell, could it possibly mean?
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