Winter seems to be finally putting her chilly hand upon us as the days get colder, shorter, and take on the shades of grey I remember well. We have been blessed by an unusually temperate and rainless autumn, which was extremely fortunate for my rehabilitation walks. Last weekend was the only time I was caught out in the rain on any of my walks in the last six weeks. The wood I laid into before my surgery to keep the family warm, lies still mostly untouched and stacked high in the garage. Waiting patiently.
Charlie has begun the rugby season for the Kia Toa Under 8's, his first year of tackle rugby, and the sound of him running outside in his new cleats on the driveway invokes powerful memories for me. That metallic clacking on the cement a sound I love. The cadence of cleats a powerful bonding preparation for battle as I advanced towards the field with my teammates before a game, or the weary dragging of them after the game or practice as tired boys and young men retreat to the locker room. I can smell the sweat, the earthy goodness of the mud and grass stains, the joyous ribald conversations in victory, or the quiet banter and tears of defeat. It is the autumn and this is what I remember.
It is my first week back at work and yesterday was six weeks since my hip replacement, the first milestone reached. Maybe it is just me, but it always seems that with the arrival of winters finger tips down here on the plains of New Zealand's North Island it all begins to take on a more grayish hue, the environment, the sky, the feel of damp bone chilling cold, and even the countenance of people appears dim and disconcerted, as if mulling over the prospects of the winter months ahead.
In terms of my hip things are going well. I will throw the crutches away after this weekend for good, and can resume going back to the gym as well. I obviously still have to be very careful bending down and to the sides, getting in and out of cars, and just being mindful of being patient. And that is hard. I look north to the Ruahines all the time. For six weeks as I walked they were within view almost constantly, beneath the blue skies day after day, now they are buried under billowing masses of blackish clouds. Still, they call strongly.
Thoughts of my rapidly approaching 50th birthday add to the sombreness I normally feel this time of year, added to no doubt by having a hip replaced six weeks ago. I can still hear the sound of those cleats! Yet in the mirror that boy is gone. Replaced by someone who vaguely looks like my own father. I think of my boys, maybe a bit selfish in the melancholic reality that as they grow strong and gain independence, I have a new hip and am turning 50.
Taylor, struggling to fit into a school system part of me can't fault for not wanting to, yet part of me with a foot planted in this adult world of responsibility and belonging worries for him. How do I balance that? I want to take him into the mountains again, but alas, cannot yet, and even that is probably more to make me feel better than to provide any answers for him. I think back on my own teen age years, and despite the balding pate, the new hip, and more weight than I care for, I feel more comfortable approaching 50 than I ever did at 17. I still seem to have just as many questions.
And Charlie, well his time to meet the real wilderness approaches as well. I hope I am up to the job. In the meantime I just want him to enjoy the sound of his new cleats.