The First Beautiful Days of Autumn

Years ago, John Nichols’ memoir, The Last Beautiful Days of Autumn, helped shape my understanding and love of the Southwest. Although the seasons are more pronounced in Taos, the nuanced shift from searing summer heat to cooler mornings to the deepening blue of the sky mark the first beautiful days of autumn in Pima Alteria or the upper Sonoran Desert.

With above average temperatures this year though, it didn’t feel like fall until today, two days before Thanksgiving. First, it was waking up on Sloop Dogg at Lake Pleasant in the cool pre-dawn to get ready for meetings with clients in Phoenix. Then, after the meetings, it was the the dark gray clouds sweeping in from the west, casting shadows and bending the light over Tempe Town Lake. Within sight of the traffic backed up on the eastbound 202, Mike Ferring and I pushed off from the ramp in a Catalina 14.2 and glided into the middle of the at once self-contained and transcendent lake. A Fish and Game truck had just stocked the lake, a musician was playing an acoustic guitar and singing, and adults and kids lined the north bank, casting and hoping. We could not have been more removed from the every day traffic just a couple hundred yards away to the north or the office work in the glass high rises along the south side of the lake.

Today was the third time I’ve met Mike and sailed at TTL, once a month since September. It was during the 2006 AYC “speed dating” meeting that Mike said, “We have to get you onto a boat.” In short order, I crewed for Roger Butterwick, Chuck Sears, and Mike. That led to crewing in the spring and fall 2007 seasons with Roger, “adopting a boat” during the TTL Heatstroke Series, the Intro to Racing course, and the ad hoc “let’s meet at the lake” weekday sailing afternoons. What a pleasure, regardless of the season. Thanks, Mike.

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