long walks

I’ve taken some longish walks lately, and the photos turned out all right. Because it’s officially September, that also means I’ve entered official mourning for summer, but the scenery’s lovely and I’m trying to focus on that instead of how spine-crushingly depressing I find fall to be. 
Aspens on Casper Mountain, showing the frightful start of autumnal leaf-gilding

The view from Casper Mountain’s Bridle Trail

 I’ve written about the Bridle Trail before. My general not-in-Casper-ness this summer has made it so that I didn’t get into the near-daily traversing of it, but I made a point to go on the second day of classes, after I was done for the day. It’s so very different in the afternoon–and it’s functionally different, too: while I was away, the trail was re-done so the ascent/descent are actually in different places, and the surface of the trail has changed. (The sandy/rock-peppered parts have expanded and deepened, which makes it a bad choice for me to run on it, as I tend to trip on the relatively flat parts.) But the view, the sunlight, the Wyoming blue–that’s always perfect.

On Labor Day weekend, we went to Denver to collect my parents and brother, who visited for the week, and we made a very brief stop at Rocky Mountain National Park, taking a six-mile round-trip hike to Jewel Lake. That’s the source of the rest of these.

This chipmunk–just scritching away, a foot from my shoe.
Another tree, turning its colors.

Just before Mill Lake, Longs Peak in the distance.
(I want there to be an apostrophe in there, but it seems there isn’t one.)

It was in the mid-nineties here in Wyoming for the entire week my family visited, and today, it’s only been about eighty. The rest of the week, the temperature is predicted to hover in the seventies. Fall is falling, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

What I can do is keep busy. My intention has been, with the start of the semester, to start the next novel, and I worked on it the first two mornings. But the old book is still in readers’ hands, still waiting a bit, and I’m still tweaking it in my head. Those characters are still absolutely omnipresent. So I’m going to try, instead, to finish up some old business. I have essay bits hanging around, a few short stories that need a good hatchet-job. I spent a big chunk of today cleaning out my office so I have a place to work again. (While my family visited, it became the room where I threw everything I didn’t have a place for, everything I usually put on the edge of the upstairs sofa or piled in my papasan chair.)

Every end-of-summer, I end up writing a post a lot like this–this is the academic’s New Year. But the last year wasn’t like all of my other old years, so this one feels a bit different because of all of my time away. I wouldn’t trade my travel this summer for anything (and to be perfectly honest, I wish it were still going because obviously), but it changed the rhythm of the summer on me.

I bought more new music this year than I’ve done since the middle-school days of the Columbia Record Club, and a lot of it is, even by my own standards, a little ridiculous. (For perspective, my favorite band that isn’t The Clash has an album called Polka’s Not Dead, and I admit to curating a love of peculiar music.) But this year, I bought things I heard on the radio (Canadian radio, out of Vancouver & Ottawa, but still). I bought things I should have heard twenty years ago but didn’t because the nineties didn’t actually get to my hometown until I graduated and went to college. (I also bought t.A.T.u.’s greatest hits album. I bet you didn’t even know they had a greatest hits album. But they do, twenty songs, and I can sing all of it now, so, so badly.) It turns out I will forgive music almost anything if it takes me to a narrative place, and that’s a chicken and egg: does everything I listen to now become narrative–important to my characters or illustrative of something in my writing or amusing to my characters who have opinions about every.damn.thing.–because that’s what I’m thinking about ninety-seven percent of the time? I’m guessing that’s the truth, and I absolutely don’t mind. I will listen to all of that Imagine Dragons album with ears that I’m apparently sharing.

And that’s been fun.

So this is me, trying again with autumn, to do what I did with some of that music: shut up. Sink in. See where it takes me.

…and hockey starts soon. So there’s that.

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