Monday, October 08, 2007

Full Bloom in October

“Don’t forget those drum lessons.”

I said this in parting to the woman sitting next to me at the Wynton Marsalis concert I attended with my son a couple weeks back. I’ve discovered that a college ID is a gateway to free and cut-rate culture, particularly when your university has just erected a multi-zillion dollar arts center striving to put itself on the “national and international arts map.” But I digress. During intermission, I learned that the woman sitting next to me had always wanted to be a drummer—sadly, social conventions of her time were not on her side. Her high school band director turned her away, explaining that “girls can’t be drummers.”

Aghast, I suggested that it wasn’t too late, that it didn’t matter that high school was decades past, that she, in fact, was facing senior citizenship; her dream could—and should—still be realized.

I hope that lady went home and made some calls. I hope she’s poking around an instrument rental shop even as I type these words, selecting the perfect drum kit to sit in the middle of the garage her grand kids cleared out last weekend. I hope it goes down like that, because way too often, it simply doesn’t.

Way too often people hit the brakes on their development as soon as some randomly selected birthday or milestone rolls in and suddenly the shadows seem to lengthen and the crisp snap in the air is mistaken for a deep freeze that ushers in a state of stagnancy marked by could-haves and should-haves and what-ifs.

I know people that don’t like October—the month when our physical world takes on long shadows and a cold snap. These colorblind folks see autumn in shades of grim-reaper-grey, missing the red-hot message embedded in the warm tones of the earth to live with vibrancy and urgency.

My New York Yankees understand the need to live urgently in October, and, facing elimination, they finally woke up and played like it last night. I know baseball is just a game, and it’s just another October, that the Yankee organization, win or lose, will have other chances, other years. But not with these Yankees. Not with this group of players, most of whom are my age, many of whom may not be back for another season. This is the team I’ve cheered, the team whose ups and downs have so eerily mirrored my own over the past few seasons, the team who has so much going for them, but just can’t quite pull it together.

Facing elimination once again tonight, I hope they can pull off a historic October rally—a tale that will live long and large in Yankee lore. I hope these guys, in the Octobers of their own lives, can bask in World Series glory this once before they hand the team over to the younger, leaner boys of summer already nipping at their heels, ready for their own time in the sun.

I love October. I number myself among those who look forward to autumn, who embrace it. When you love autumn, it’s not because you don’t know that winter’s coming—you do. You feel it intensely, but you also recognize that some of the best days of the year are sandwiched between the calendar page with the pumpkins and the one with the crystalline void of the next season. You love it because you understand that a well spent autumn of harvesting and planting can make for a better winter and a better legacy.

The picture at the beginning of this post was taken in my back yard last week. In August, a couple of weeks after returning from the x-country trip, I began to lament that there would be no sunflowers this year. The back of the seed package suggests April planting. I’ve already learned that leads to a late-June bloom. As I’m usually away that week, I typically start my seeds in May or early June and get July or August flowers. So I already knew there was some wiggle room in the suggested planting schedule. I just didn't know how much.

This flower exists simply because I said to myself in mid-August--a full third of a year past the perscribed sowing season--what have I got to lose? and started some seeds. These flowers grew sturdy and strong and beautiful, simply because I gave them a chance. From now on, I plan to stagger my seedlings so I can have sunflowers blooming for several months each year.

So here’s to fall gardens and drum lessons at any season in life.

Here’s to Joe Torre and the boys from the Bronx.

Go Yankees.

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