So far, in these first nine days of fall, I believe we have had more clear, beautiful, sunny, and nearly warm days than we had all summer. Certainly we have, if we were to count by percentages. The days are still rather chilly, but this is less bothersome as they begin to match the time of year. I have no objection to cold weather. I even rather enjoy it. But I really hate cold weather when I expect it to be hot. Or perhaps this is just because, in some perverse twist of fate, I always wish for whatever weather I do not have. I like the summer best when it is winter outside, but as soon as it gets to hot for comfort, I find myself wishing for snow again so that I would have the luxury of bundling up with a warm, clean blanket fresh out of the dryer, a cup of tea, and a good book. Alternatively, I could trade the book for a good friend. I hate having to plan time to scrape ice off of my car, and trudging through dirty, slushy snow, but once I am indoors, warm, and comfortable, I find myself smiling serenely at the harsh elements raging outside, as if their only purpose was to make me feel all the more pleased with my situation. I love the winter, so long as I am not out in it.
“How can a man who’s warm understand a man who’s freezing?”
Anyway, all that has nothing to do with the fall. I love the fall. I have high hopes for this one being rather grand, after summer was so rotten. This week Andrea and I went out to visit a nearby woods along with one of the neighbors and her two kids, Simon and Anika. Anika is a little girl a few months younger than Damaris (so either only just, or not quite, one year old), while Simon is exactly between Jonas (who turned four this month) and Jakob (who will turn three in February.) This little boy, Simon, is one of my favorite kids in the neighborhood, and quite the riot. He comes over less frequently than Tim, Jonas’s best friend, but both boys live in houses whose yards touch ours, and all three go to the same kindergarten. The first time I met Simon, we had a most peculiar conversation. I was sitting at a nearby playground, watching Jakob clambering up a rope ladder, when I looked over and saw a small, curly-haired boy looking up at me with big, round eyes, as if I were the most incredible person he ever saw.
“Hallo,” said I.
“Heißt du?” queried the child, which I understood to mean “What’s your name?”
“Ah,” said I, stumbling a little as I made sure of his meaning, “Ich bin Laura.”
The child looked up at me, eyes wide. There was a slight pause. Then, “Warum?”
Warum. Warum? I was speechless. How do I answer this? “Why?” “Why is my name Laura?” Ask my parents, kid, I have no idea. They thought it was pretty? I started to laugh, but then my presence was required for some crisis of Jakob’s, and I had to leave the child’s question unanswered. As it turns out, “Warum?” is a near consent question of the boy’s. He asks “Warum?” about everything, even the most trivial of details, such as the reasoning behind my name. This is very endearing. But even more so, for me, was that he did not forget my name, nor who I was, nor where I lived. Several weeks later, when his mother brought him over to visit on a day I had taken off to go elsewhere, the first question he asked upon entering the house was where I was. When he sees me in the yard, he will often call out to me and wave. And usually ask a question, the answer to which will receive the customary reply “Warum?”
So me, Andrea, the kids, Simon, his sister, and his mother, all went out to these little woods, to a spot Andrea knew that rather reminded me of Weathertop. It was a nice little hill, hidden a bit in the woods, with a bit of a thick, stone wall forming a half-circle along one edge. The ground was covered with fallen leaves, whithered and curled in on themselves like shavings of copper. We snacked on apples, and rice cakes, and butterkeks, about as peacefully as possible with five children to keep an eye on. Then the kids ran around, and climbed up the hill (with the aid of some climbing ropes that were fastened to the wall), and we all had a merry old time, for the most part. The woods themselves reminded me of the woods around home, and are near enough to walk to, if I were willing to take a bit of a hike. Andrea picked up bretzels on the way home, and we ate them for dinner around the fireplace in the living room, because Markus was gone, and Andrea thought it would be nice for the kids.
Outside, the sun is out. There are a few clouds, but the sky still has plenty of the peculiar blue that only comes on those special days in fall. The leaves are just starting to turn color, the air is crisp. The kids in the neighborhood are playing in the street, enjoying the last bit of their weekend before heading back to school. And if I listen very closely, the little church way off down the hill and over the fields is just tolling quarter past the hour.