In early October, morning frosts gave way to blue skies and warm days. Autumn breezes moved among the limbs of maple, oak, and birch trees and their leaves dried and curled and changed color but held their grip on the boughs and refused to fall.
Aided by this good weather, the virus I’d picked up in New England slowly retreated. I continued to cough and my lips developed sores, highlighting the poor performance of my immune system caused by a blood cancer, multiple myeloma. My energy, however, returned and I took daily walks of four miles or more, sometimes with others but most often alone.
In the midst of my recuperation, I learned that a fellow blogger and friend, Sander van der Pol, passed away. His writing revealed an innate dignity and kindness. He accompanied his short posts with links to his music along with a rotating gallery of photos from his home in The Netherlands. Through the years, we exchanged comments, sharing the kinship of our disease as well as a mutual fondness for cats. His last blog entry was published within five days of his pending death.
Walking is an effective antidote for the emotions stirred by Sander’s passing. It also helps me exorcise the jittery demons of the steroids I must take for my cancer. So, recently, when an enchanted morning light presented itself, I grabbed my camera and headed out to the Indian Creek Trail.
The east portion of the ICT follows the watershed that merges with the Hood River near town. A dense undergrowth blankets the steep slopes and snares the mists that feed the moss on the trunks of the oaks that hover above the canyon.
An overcast sky diffused the sunlight, which occasionally poked through and gilded the Big Leaf Maples. The moist air bore the heady scent of decaying leaves and the ground, softened by rain, gave way on the slope side when I stepped off the trail.
There were few other walkers; most had dogs while one adventurous lady pushed a baby stroller down the mucky track. We waved but did not visit, content within the shelter of our own imaginations.
The magical light vanished with the rising sun. I slung my camera over my back and climbed “Gil’s Stairs” to the neighborhood above town and made my way alone along the quiet streets.
Today, back home, I try not to dwell on the disease skirmishing in my bone marrow. There’s writing to do and chores to ignore and solitude to savor. Outside, wind gusts shake the limbs of the trees free of their leaves. They scuttle across the deck and land on the tiles of the garden paths, and tremble under the fierce sky of a Northwest autumn.
Farewell my friend, Sander van der Pol.