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The International Writers Magazine :

The Winds of October
Eric D. Lehman

Afternoon waves at Hammonasset State Park grasp at the tufted dunes, driven forward by a stiff wind from the southwest. My wife Amy and I wander along this windswept beach, trying to catch a sunset on the Sound, rare for busy people like us. The wind tears our eyes as we try to watch a gang of parasurfers leap off the waves into the salt air. Before our walk we had escaped the persistent wind in our tent, boiling hot chocolate and munching on berries. That repast serves us well on the exposed dunes, with high tide crashing at our feet and the offshore gale whipping through our hair.

Finally, the great sphere of ruby sinks over Long Island, and we stroll back through the mainly deserted campground. A few brave groups huddle around fires, quilted blankets draped over their legs, sipping hot drinks. They, too, had come to Hammonasset’s post-season campground, drawn by the same thing we had been. What was it? I wasn’t sure, and perhaps it was foolish stubbornness to want to draw out the summer with an autumn camping trip on Connecticut’s browning shore.

Back at the tent, I cook soup and tea, while Amy prepares sleeping bags and warmer clothes for the sub-zero night. The branches of wind-wracked pines sway around the tent as we burrow slowly into our bags, munching on crackers and filling hot water bottles. We read poetry aloud to each other in the dim tent to stave off the cold and wind, to light the growing darkness. Finally, as the wind dies down, we drift off into a pine-scented sleep.

In the morning, frost has settled on the rain-fly and we shiver our way to boiling water for coffee and oatmeal, shoveling needed fuel into our inner furnaces. The sun finally warms our faces and we head out to the beach again, where fishermen hopefully cast into the surf, a group of budding scientists takes notes on the local nature, and a grizzled artist sets up his easel in the morning sun. Cormorants speed across the wavetops, so calm now after last evening’s fury. Snowy egrets spear fish in a wading pool, wood ducks dive for minnows with wiggling tails, and a great blue heron wheels across the brown expanse of the salt marsh slowly, searching for breakfast.

These shore birds were already hard at work, and though they seemed freer, would spend the majority of their time on survival. They would tell me that it was not foolishness that brought me to Hammonasset in October. Such days we must steal from the autumn of work, the endless paper trails and e-mails, the demands of bosses and families. We must snatch them now, before the real cold sets in, the cold that does not respond to steaming mugs of hot chocolate.

Before the drive back to reality, to my broken computer and her pile of student essays, Amy and I stop at Elizabeth’s Café in Madison for eggs benedict and a goat-cheese omelet. The woman next to us discusses death with the café manager, having lost her father-in-law only two days earlier. But he was old and lived a good life, she said promptly. A good life, I think, we always say that. What does it mean? And as my wife smiles at me across the table, her cheeks rosy with a weekend well-spent, I know.

© Eric D. Lehman October 2008

Eric Teaches Creative Writiing at Bridgeport

How to Build a Cemetery
Eric D. Lehman
We drove to Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, to see the graves of a few famous writers. We turned into the long drive of Forest Hills Cemetery, coasting through tall, ornate stone arches, completely unprepared for what we found there.
A Night on Sugar Mountain
Eric D. Lehman

The Sucrerie de la Montagne, or sugar-shack of the mountain, was the dream-turned-reality of Pierre Faucher,

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