Some years, fall drifts gently into winter. Skies darken earlier each evening, temperatures cool, and the first frosty morning gathers the attention, and mild grief, of gardeners.
This year was different. Autumn’s golden afternoons were replaced suddenly with an early snowfall, blanketing the ground in November. Comparing notes with the old-timers, denizens of Pine Street and its environs were reminded that, back in the day, there was often snow before Halloween.
The newcomers (anyone who arrived sometime in the last fifty years or so) were not comforted by the old-timers’ recollections. The snow disconcerted them. They wondered if they needed new boots, or new tires on their cars. They had thought there would be time to bring in the hoses, to put the gardens to bed, to place one more coat of paint on something.
Mother Nature had fooled them, they said, but in reality, what had lulled them into inaction was the very human tendency to imagine that the way things are is they way they will stay. Despite living in a universe that is never the same two days, or two milliseconds, in a row, human beings persist making their investments in the illusion of permanence. How we feel, live, spend our time today, we believe will be the way we feel, live, spend our time tomorrow.
Illnesses, accidents, deaths, and early snowfalls interrupt this illusion, and we humans rarely welcome such interruptions.
Franny, suiting up to take Precious outside in the snow, grumbled to herself. She’d had to dig deep in her closet to find the bin of winter hats and boots. She knew Precious had a fleece vest Marilyn had made her wear for the coldest winter walks, but didn’t think she’d seen it in the box of dog supplies she’d brought over from Marilyn’s house. That meant she’d have to find something else, or go back to the house, or call Douglas. Of the three options, none charmed her out of her crotchety mood.
She wrapped an old scarf around Precious, tying it in an awkward knot at the little dog’s back. Bundling herself into her winter coat, Franny ventured out into the falling snow. It wasn’t even all that pretty, as it fell in a heavy, gloppy, sleety mess around them. Standing in front of the building, Franny heard her name.
“Hey there.” It was Kassandra, the barista, who’d moved into the apartment next to Franny’s when Allison bought her house. “I’m heading to work. Walk with you guys?” Kassandra knelt in the messy snow to scratch Precious behind her ears. “Hi sweetie.”
Their paths converged for only a single block, but something about Kassandra and Precious’s simple enjoyment of being together for that block helped Franny warm up.