The sounds and smells of September

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Sept. 15, 2005

Dear Julie,

Two thousand bikers just left town after a rally here. They ate and drank and drove around town a lot. Main Street Saturday night was a miniature Sturgis. The chorale of motorcycle engines set off burglar alarms downtown.

As far as I know, none of the city's daughters is missing. Missouri bikers might be tamer than the California kind. When DC and I lived in California, one of her assistants hopped on the back of a Harley at a rally and disappeared for days. When she returned everybody seemed to understand.

Next weekend musicians and fans will swarm all over the downtown for the City of Roses Music Festival. The downtown vibrates with energy when this happens every year. Music fills every street corner and pours out of every bar.

September is my favorite month to live in Cape Girardeau. The days are still warm, the nights cooling. Sometimes the latest bad news makes you forget the blessings of being alive. September reminds me.

Each September, the district fair is a reminder that producing food is still essential to our existence no matter how packaged in modernity that existence becomes. Though fewer and fewer people in Southeast Missouri are involved in agriculture, the rhythm of the harvest season still signals it's a time to rejoice.

The fair is open this week. Families come from all over Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois to try out the carnival rides, eat corndogs and cotton candy and look at all the cattle, chickens and people.

In an age when so much of reality is experienced virtually -- sometimes does it seem we're virtually alive? -- the fair is real. You can smell the cattle and sawdust and the corndogs.

I was introduced to my first real girlfriend on the midway at the fair. She had just moved to town from St. Louis. We only said hello, but the T-shirt I was wearing and the curve of her smile are still locked away in my head.

In a song called "September Grass," James Taylor remembers kisses with a girl at a football game long ago. "I can still smell the sweat and the grass stains. We walked home together, I was never the same."

September is the month of my birth and my marriage. The wedding occurred under a bright blue sky in the Carmel Highlands. DC keeps one of the photographs tucked into the visor of her pickup truck, a reminder, I suspect, that it really happened.

After nearly 12 years, I know that marriage is not bliss. It is none of those sentiments sold in bridal magazines. Marriage is more biker rally, music festival and county fair all rolled into one -- noisy, rough, sweet, crunchy, crowded, thrilling, dangerous and suffused with the possibilities for learning about yourself are unlimited. The best lessons aren't usually easily learned or dressed up in bows and ribbons.

They come once you accept that it doesn't matter who was right.

Rumi: "Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase 'each other' doesn't make sense any more."

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is managing editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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