"What?!" I shrieked. "It's mid-October! We should have had a snowstorm by now."
"Yeah," he relented. "It is kind of crispy."
Crispy. The perfect adjective. I thought of it again every day this week as the fallen leaves crumbled to dust on the sidewalk, as the sunflower stalks turned brown and ... crispy.
Not crisp, as in a brisk autumn day, but crispy, as in burnt toast, as in dehydrated, dried up, devoid of water.
So I've grumbled through my days and cursed the cheerful weather people on television who grin madly and slobber over this "beautiful fall weather" or "another beautiful Colorado day" or more "T-shirt weather."
But at night, every night now, I dream of water. And my water dreams are carrying over to a strange new waking obsession -- an overwhelming and constant fantasy of living in a place where I can drop an old rowboat into the water and paddle.
I've never really given a thought to living near water before, and I've never lived near a body of water except for a tiny trickle of a creek that ran behind my house the year I was in sixth grade. I know nothing about boats. But now, at least once, maybe 10 times a day, I vividly fantasize the place where I want to live, my body of water and my floating vessel.
My dream body of water isn't a roaring river or an ocean with waves. It is a motionless body, a lake or inlet, with tall grass and cattails around it and a shallow bank that makes it easy to wade into. My boat isn't a canoe or a kayak. It's an old aluminum rowboat with a plank seat and two fat oars.
My dream, I realize, is as much about growing old as it is about water. In my rowboat dreams, I wear a rumpled cotton hat, loose trousers and rubber waders. I row slowly, methodically, moving slowly across the lake. My arms and back are strong, but the rest of my body is soft and slack. Some mornings I wake with a knotted muscle in the middle of my back, with aching arms.
This is not a casual fantasy.
It colors my days. Working on a story, doing research on the Internet, I come across the name of a town that sounds as if it might be near a body of water such as the one I dream about. I wander off, go to the town Web site and search for a lake. I have found one in Alabama, one in California, many in Wisconsin, a few in Indiana. I don't really want to live in any of those states but I crave that lake, its rippled top at sunset, dragonflies nipping at the surface on summer afternoons.
The other night, flipping channels, I came across that corny movie with Sandra Bullock where her high-school sweetheart/husband dumps her on national television and she has to move back to her mother's house in Smithville, Texas, where she was once the homecoming queen. Her mother is Gena Rowlands, silvery and soft and gorgeous. They live in a big old house next to a lake with swampy banks and every morning, Gena Rowlands wades into the water and throws bread to the ducks.
I don't really want to watch this movie again, but I do because I want to see the scene where Sandra Bullock, after realizing her husband is a big creep and she can go home again, wades out into the water one morning at sunrise and throws bread to the ducks. From the upstairs window, her 8-year-old daughter watches.
Smithville, Texas, I'm thinking, I could live there and have a rowboat. I actually have a friend whose father lived there and walked the banks of a lake every day, watching birds, until he died.
I'm about to look up Smithville, Texas on the Internet in my water obsessed frenzy when it hits me -- I won't be Sandra Bullock starting over. I'll be Gena Rowlands, and just like her I could drop dead one night from a heart attack, just reaching for a glass of water on the bedside table. I won't get to make out with Harry Connick, Jr. I'll have arthritis and wrinkles and a daughter, also a former homecoming queen, old enough to be divorced and returned home with an 8-year-old daughter.
But at least I'll have water. And maybe a little rowboat.