November Song

John Simonds







Morton Arboretum woodland. Photo by Dustin M. Ramsey.

Morton Arboretum woodland. Photo by Dustin M. Ramsey.

It’s almost over. The glorious sun-splashed days of fall have given way to the faint hint that soon we will be walking on frozen tundra in Chicago.

My L.L. Bean parka has been moved up in the pecking order of the hall closet, and my knitted navy cap brought down from its summer perch at the back of the top shelf. It’s time to hunker down and brace myself for the inevitability of what is to be endured until we escape to Mexico the first day of February.

Just when I was starting to feel a touch of melancholy, I stepped outside on the first day of November and resumed my love affair with fall. The temperature was creeping into the low seventies. The sun was glinting off the nearly barren trees and a maintenance crew was gathering leaves into symmetrical piles for disposal. Fall was back for a final bow.

As I emerged from our building, I noticed a workman across Grand Avenue stringing white Christmas tree lights, for God’s sake. Then I noticed that Peet’s Coffee had removed all of their umbrella tables and little further up Kingsbury, the luscious flower beds at the entrance to park had be plowed under, awaiting the first frost.

As a final paean to a most wonderful fall, I signed on last week for a day at the spacious Morton Arboretum, about an hour west of where we live. I guess I could be called a retired tree-hugger. I always enjoyed identifying the various species in the woods of Vermont. I even took a course in botany and wept when the elm trees that lines the sidewalks of Burlington succumbed to the Dutch Elm Disease.

The magnificent Morton Arboretum has a stunning 1,300 different species lovingly cared for by a professional staff of tree biologists, many of whom are here on a fellowship to do research. It was all quite interesting and informative, if not uplifting, to see such wonders just 28 miles from our urban center. After a Power Point lecture, we took a tour walking on undulating pathways with ancient wooden benches for rest.

On the return to the parking area, we had to walk on slightly inclined slopes. After about 20 minutes, I began to feel a sharp pain in my calves, enough to cause me to seek out a bench for restoration before going on. Damn, it was really painful on the last leg of what was an otherwise gratifying nature walk among the ancient (and not so ancient) trees that populate this well-endowed urban arboretum, named after its principal founder and heiress to the Morton Salt fortune.

Back at the ranch that evening, I poured myself a glass chardonnay and decided that the episode with the claudication in my calves had to be a sign from the Almighty, but what the Almighty was trying to tell me was not all that clear.

Maybe it was that life is not the bowl of cherries I had hoped for. Or maybe the Almighty was trying to tell me to call my trainer at the Fitness Center and get back in the gym until I am fit enough to climb the cobblestone hills of San Miguel (while those less fortunate had to endure the rigors of an other winter in Chicago).

My teeth chatter just thinking about it.