Sunday, October 7, 2007

Best Laid Plans

Papa Bear: "A good plan is like a road map: it shows the final destination and usually the best way to get there." H. Stanley Judd

Baby Bear: "I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day. " E.B. White.

Ahhh, October. It's not just a month on the calendar. It's the harbinger of a change in seasons, football match-ups, apple festivals and fall foliage. Not to mention the beginning of the end of the year holiday season, that begins with Halloween and runs through Christmas. Unless, of course, you follow the merchandizing calendar which had pumpkin and scarecrow decorations for sale shortly after the 4th of July and will be featuring New Year's Eve noisemakers and Valentine cards in the same newpaper ads.

The thing I like best about October is the difference in temperatures, albeit minimal when one lives in Florida. There's just something about the way the air feels and smells after the 1st of October. When Mother Nature gives up her coat of green for her multi-colored fall attire, it begins to smell different, earthier. The summer aroma of hot dogs and marshmellows roasting over a camp fire, gives way to the loamy, fructiferous (I didn't make that up) scent of red leaves, orange pumpkins, and yellow squash.

It's a toss up for me which season I prefer - the fall of the year or its calendar opposite, springtime. Perhaps I don't have to choose, because it is not that one is better than the other. It's the disctinct change that the seasons herald in that I love. Those in-between times when it's neither not hot or cold, but somewhere in the middle; not one hue, but a riot of color. The times when I feel like Goldilocks discovering that everything is "just right."

October, like May, is the time of year when my Smokey mountain DNA calls me home. I'm really not what you might call a nature girl, until I start thinking about the sun shining through the haze and the brightly colored mountain vistas. October temperatures make me want to trade my Birkenstock sandals for well-worn Hi-Tech hiking boots, and risk the ire of air conditioner gods by opening the bedroom window. Every cell in my body longs to stand on the top of Buck Bald and shout alleluias to the creator of such beauty.

I come by these feelings naturally. It runs in my family (except the part about the open windows)!! Dad has been talking about seeing the leaves turn for 6 weeks. In fact, it is this same call of the wild that actually got Mr. "I'm-just-fine-where-I-am" to commit to a trip to his old hometown ... Newport, Tennessee.

According to the Cocke County chamber of commerce, Newport is the "heartbeat of the smokies." I have never lived there - probably never will - yet it is the place that my inner Indian princess calls home. The place where I can walk in the moccasins of my father's father and know peace. The very idea of a day or a week in the mountains thrilled me to the bone. Woohoo! !Roadtrip!! Let's get in the car and go!!

"Wait, a minute." "Slow down," said Papa Bear. "We have to have a plan."

"Plan?" said Baby Bear. "What's a plan?"

With an incredulous look that questioned the possibility that one of his offspring would consider taking a trip without fulfilling his Boy Scout/Naval officer/Engineer/father #1 rule - Be Prepared, Papa Bear responded, "You know, a plan: maps, lists, guide books, telephone numbers, hotel reservations, mileage tables, car maintenance schedule ... that kind of plan."

"Oh," said Baby Bear, not sure what all the fuss was about.

And so it went. As Dad made his plans, I danced at the back door like the dog waiting for her nightly treats. "Is it time yet? Can we go now?"

I think there was a time in my life when I was more of a planner. But really I don't think I've ever had it in me to be too rigid. It really doesn't make much sense as I especially do not like the unexpected. Yet, when I get something in my head, I like to just get on with it, hoping that the pieces will fall together with few distractions. Remember the kitchen re-do? It was both the planning and the non-planning that ran me ragged. You'd think I would have learned my lesson.

As it turns out, this best laid plan went awry when Papa Bear began to have chest pains. Be it heart attack or indigestion, pains in one's chest can not be planned for. As much as we miss the leaves and the mist, we all know that this October we will not get a whiff of mountain air.

I'm pretty sure the mountains aren't going anywhere. And I'm pretty sure they will continue to call us home. The highways probably aren't going to change so our AAA Trip-Tik will still show us the way. I can buy some apples at the grocery store, probably a lot cheaper than at a mountain festival. They'll have a little sticker on them that reads, product of Chile, but they will taste the same. You see it's not the fruit, or the road, or the trees that are important. It's not the heartbeat of the Smokies that I care about today. For now it's that steady beep, beep, beep of the heart monitor that makes me smile.

"Get well, Daddio, you've still got plans to make."

Wishing you all the colors of autumn,
Merry Me

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