The seasons change with lightning swiftness in Minnesota, and during this morning's walk to the bus stop, I can clearly see we have now entered the transition, the saddle season between summer and autumn. Yesterday saw what might well prove to be the last summer thunderstorm, a long heavy rain storm driven by southern winds carrying lots of moisture up from the Gulf of Mexico. Today, the skies are a piercing blue and the wind is a cool gusty breeze from the northeast. Yesterday's upper 80-degree temperatures have been replaced by buoyant air in the mid-50s. By mid-afternoon, we may well be back in the upper 80s, but we have now reached that season where mornings and evenings will clearly belong to autumn while summer is still fully present in the mid-day hours.
It's the kind of morning where the beverage I purchase from Starbucks to drink on the bus ride might be either iced latte or hot chocolate, and either would be perfectly appropriate. Today, anyway, I choose the iced latte.
Some of my fellow passengers on the bus this morning are wearing long-sleeved flannel shirts or light sweaters in acknowledgment of the autumn soon to be upon us, while others hold tight by wearing short-sleeved polo shirts in anticipation of the warmth that will mark the mid-day hours. Both forms of dress are fine today.
These days of transition always fill me with a kind of extreme, pleasurable melancholy. I am critically aware that there are a limited number of these summer-autumn transition seasons left for me to fully enjoy. I am approaching 62 years of age, and in 20 more years, I will be an old man of 82. My father passed away at 82 after two difficult years confined to a care facility, and for the men of my family, he did well to live that long; most expire in their 70s. So a realistic degree of optimism tells me that 20 more good years is a reasonable projection for me. If I'm really lucky, it might be as many as 30 more seasons, but however you look at it, it must be acknowledged that the clock is ticking. It is self deception to pretend otherwise.
Oddly, this is not a depressing thought at all, but one that makes this particular morning all the more glorious and wonderful. The temporary nature of life fills me with a kind of painful love for the world and all the things and people in it—a fondness that simply wouldn't be possible if we didn't recognize that life is a limited gift that will end some day. It is death—or more precisely the recognition of death—that makes life so wonderful. It can be argued, even, that a life must end for it to have any meaning at all.
On a store at 36th Street and Lyndale Avenue, a large mural with the single word "LOVE" has been painted across the brickwork in an old-fashioned serif-font typeface. The word is brightly colored in warm southwestern hues across the side wall of a pet-food store. A man sits on a promotional bus-stop bench with his back to the giant word, oblivious to it.
I wonder at the intended grammar of the word in this setting. Today, I choose to read LOVE not as a noun but as an imperative verb. I think the artist intended it as the prescription for how we should behave in the world when faced with a clear sense of life's mortal quality. Love.
How is it, I wonder, that in all the days of bus trips along this route, this is the first day that I've recognized this mural?