Halloween night, and winter is here for real. The moon is past the quarter, slimming to crescent, and the night sky is dark with gathering clouds moving over the valley from the south. This week, after a long, gradual fall, we had a day of snow and dropping temperatures, so that now snow sits fluffy and dry on the ground, the fence line, the garden beds. It’s just in time for an Interior Halloween. Puffy parkas fill out a costume nicely, and kids are unrecognizable in them.
We don’t have many kids in the neighborhood, though a family with three kids has moved in across the street since May. I’ve given up preparing for kids to come trick or treat, so Halloween passes by like any other day, except that it signals a return to Alaska Standard Time—an extra hour of sleep the first day, darker afternoons for the rest of winter.
Today I went out to work with Mattie and Sam a bit. Their coats are growing in like thick plush, delightful to touch. In the mornings when I go out to feed them, sleepy and grateful for the interval of outdoor time that chore offers, I lean my arm over Sam’s back and press my face into his fur. He’s like a hooved teddy bear, despite his bad behavior at summer’s end. Mattie is less cuddly in winter. Cold makes her cranky, but she’ll let me run my hand under her mane and scratch her on the forehead. She feels like thick velvet and, even with the long coat, gleams in sunlight.
The riding season ended for us shortly after classes began at the university. We had one last clinic with Hannah in September, during which Sam had a spectacular bucking fit, and Mattie and I earned our Bronze Horsemasters rating on the flat. I’ve been concerned about Sam—we will never know what set him off: a yellow jacket or the sight of horses and riders emerging from the woods in a nearby field or some soreness or just perversity. Trish, who was riding him, hit the dirt but fell well and primarily injured her confidence. Later in the week, Colleen, the vet, came out and we stress tested him for lameness and found that he was very sore in his right front pastern and slightly sore in the left. We checked saddle fit, and the saddle that had fit him like a glove in the beginning of summer now put pressure on his withers, which had filled out, and the saddle generally didn’t fit the contours of his back as well. She also gave him a full chiropractic treatment and he seemed to relax immediately. Poor guy. By today, he was trotting soundly. Nevertheless, I’ll have him on a joint supplement for the winter, and probably forever.
It’s been the political season, too. I reflect back on the entry I wrote when Obama was inaugurated—how happy and hopeful I felt. This political season has been gritty and stranger than usual, even in Alaska, where we have a three-way race for Senator. I follow politics avidly, though I rarely write about them here. As someone who teaches writing and whose students are often on their first tentative steps toward entering the academic world after years of working, raising kids, or being in the military, I usually avoid discussing politics in the classroom, and it’s become a habit. Still, I’m saddened that language has become such a victim of the political process, including an Orwellian style of doublespeak. I’m sadder still that the shouting and vitriol has obscured the efforts of a few decent candidates.
I imagine the world a better place if the “nice guys,” the ones who view public office as a service to humanity rather than a ladder to power or some idea of religious entitlement, would get elected and govern politely. I’d like it if I’d get phone calls from the winning candidates, like the ones I’m getting from the campaigns, that ask me what I think, what ideas I have, or give me a heads up on the process. I imagine them all sitting down over scones and coffee and chatting pleasantly about their vision for the world: I want them to want more gardens, more poetry and music, and lots of smart children who have a good and lively place to go learn every day. I want my friend, who is sick and housebound and watches Glen Beck every day, to get her Medicare and the in-home help she needs—without a sense of irony, but just because it’s what she deserves as a neighbor in the wider national community that we all belong to.
I will be out on the corner Tuesday waving signs for the candidates I support. For a brief time, before I get too cold to hold my sign up, I’ll imagine a world where these things are true and possible, and I’ll wave at my neighbors as they drive by.