It was a day in early October. A Saturday afternoon around 3 o’clock.
The restaurant, perched on the end of a pier in Stonington, Connecticut was half-filled with people having a late lunch or a few drinks as they listened to a jazz quartet. The main room, which included both the dining room and a bar, was surrounded on three sides by six light windows with metal screens. The windows were all open and those of us inside were bathed in the salt-air gently moving off the water across the interior and out the other side until it rolled, like its own weather system, down Water St., the salt being filtered by the remaining fall leaves on the tall oaks, maples, and elms on the village green.
It was an unseasonably warm day. Near 80F and if not for the autumn sunlight you might think it was July.
A fisherman from the Stonington fleet walked in wearing his work overalls and an old John Deere baseball hat and asked the bartender for a beer.
“It’s a beautiful day to be on the water,” the bartender said.
“Sure is,” the fisherman answered, “it’s what we call a bonus day. By next weekend, winter will be here.”
I had stopped in for a thick Bloody Mary, with a wedge of lime, an olive, a stalk of celery, and sea salt clinging to the rim. I used to call it the drink that drinks like a meal. I listened and considered the conversation, heard the jazz music in the background, watched the seabirds fight for position on the dock. I did not care about Monday, or last week. I sat there. Relaxed. Enjoying one last day of summer in southern New England. A bonus day.
Throughout my life there have been two consistent facts of meteorology. Good Friday is always sunny and warm and there is always at least one weekend in October when summer makes a final stand against the coming cold. The first, Good Friday, is a sign of spring, the second, that weekend in October, is a sign of hope. A signal that whatever comes next can be endured and should be equally appreciated for what it is; a time of recovery.
Lots of people think September is the best time of year to be near the shore. The crowds are gone and the water is still warm. After Labor Day, lots of people just give up on recreation and focus on work until the holiday season begins in November and we all slow down, waiting for that next burst of collective activity in January, when we lose our last excuse to put things off.
I have nothing against September, but I look forward to that final warm air mass of October. The sunlight being filtered by the yellow, red, and orange of the changing leaves. The temperatures that are cool enough for old blue jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt, but too warm for the heavy sweaters and coats of November and the winter to follow. There is a special scent. The scent of drying leaves. Like the scent of a burning candle, being moved by a draft from under the doorway. The crops of summer have been harvested from the farmers’ fields. All that is left is the squash and the pumpkins crawling along the ground peeking up from under the vines.
The sun warms my face and I think back to the Octobers of my past. I wonder about the October’s of history and whether there was always time, like there seems to be now, for people to enjoy it as I do. Or was living itself too hard? No time to pause and reflect. No time to take advantage of such a blessing or bonus. I realize there is a limit to how many Octobers I will get to enjoy in my life and I thank, whoever it is that needs to be thanked, for allowing me to have this one.