Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The chill of fall is in the air

There are a couple things that happen every year that I'm just not a fan of. One of them is the day when we set the clocks back an hour, and suddenly the nights are that much longer, the darkness that much more invasive, powerful and present.

The other is when I feel that first touch of fall in the air -- the wind bites a little differently than it had the day before, the air smells a little different, and the body feels a slight twinge in the skin and in the bones.

Today, I felt that first touch of fall.

I walked into Safeco Field this evening like I had the evening before, went to my normal stops, sat in my normal place. I said hello to the same people I said hello to the night before, reminisced over the game that in time and memory was so recent, but in impact on the present so far it was if it almost never happened. And as I was making my rounds, I felt it jump up on me from behind at one turn -- at another, it snuck up on me from around a corner. I asked the worker who I have come to know by face and frequency, but unfortunately not by name if she felt it -- yes she did she told me, pointing at the sleeve of her jacket -- not the same one she wore the day before because it was part of the uniform, but the one she wore tonight because of necessity.

My hands felt different as I jotted down the plays in my scorebook and typed this message. The skin on my fingers felt thinner -- and not in the good way, the way that is achieved through healthier living. It was my bones gripping the pencil and pushing on the keyboard -- not the flesh that was there last night. Nature made my hands feel different tonight -- the nature that is bigger than any one of us, and bigger than all of us combined.

For the first time since April - at least I think it was April - I reach for hot coffee instead of cold soda. I regret not bringing a jacket with me tonight -- the jacket I was so happy to leave behind in April and May, as the nights warmed. It will be that same jacket that I'll grab when I head out the door tomorrow morning in preparation for the possible invasion of the fall winds again.

There is no mistaking what this means -- the end of baseball season is coming, and with it, the beginning of winter, with its cold, its rain, its darkness, and its absence of baseball. Like Rogers Hornsby, I will take refuge sitting by the window and waiting for spring to arrive.

Fall has made its presence known -- it may not reappear for a while, but it has announced that it is ready to descend upon us like a deep sleep after a long work day. Baseball is reaching into the final hours of another season -- with the blur that is the postseason occupying the final few minutes that has been the countdown clock, ticked down pitch by pitch, at bat by at bat, and out by out.

The cold bite of the first fall wind makes you appreciate how fast the season - and on a larger scale, how fast life, moves. You get the new pocket schedule from your favorite team, and ponder upon the big road trip in the middle of the season, or the homestand when the MVP or the future Hall of Famer comes to town, and you look at all those boxes and all those teams and all those days. But then you look at that same schedule one day and realize that somehow the days have gone by, the games have been played, and suddenly realize you only have a handful of opportunities to see your guys run out on the field this year with the enthusiasm of children, and for you to put the rest of your world on pause, and sit back, look at the green grass, soak up the summer sun, and watch the ball game, before it is shut down and put away for the winter.

And with the passing of each out, and each game, part of us passes into yesterday, swept into the past with the fall winds.


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