We’ve had odd weather around Portland this year, so it’s something of a relief to be experiencing a typical autumn. In the spring, we had a bizarre warm spell from February 15th to March 15th, followed by miserable damp weather for months. Our summer was unusually placid and a little cool. (Did we have a single 100-degree day?) Our autumn has been typical, though, with an plenty of light rain.

Kris and I are pleased to be on a piece of property with an abundance of trees. It’s a pleasure to watch the leaves change color day-by-day. Every morning, Kris looks out the window at the top of the stairs, reveling in the bright orange and red of the maples. She also likes our oak. She called me at work yesterday to tell me how beautiful it was, framed against the blue sky.

We spent all of Friday afternoon outside, working in the yard. With a lawn this large, it is of utmost importance that I snag any available mowing days in the fall. At the Canby house, I could do a rush job on moderately wet grass. That’s not an option here.

As we worked, we chatted with the neighbors. Curt and I held a conference over the fence, discussing yard work, remodeling, and dogs. While I was cleaning out my car, Tom wandered over from next door to talk about grapes, rototillers, and old photography magazines. (Tom has some 1940s photography magazines that he’s going to give me. Also, we recently purchased Mike and Rhonda’s 8-hp rototiller; I can’t wait to put its counterrotating tines to work!)

I spent this morning and afternoon with my friend Mitch, and his children, Brandon and Zoe (aged 13 and 10, respectively). It was interesting to see a pair of kids who are about five years older than any of the children with whom I have regular contact. “When do kids get self-sufficient?” I often ask my friends. “When do they demand less of your time, become able to do things on their own without your constant attention?” The answer seems to be: someplace between ten and thirteen (though I’m sure it depends on the kid).

In the morning, I took Mitch and his kids to the annual Multnomah County Library book sale. They seemed genuinely shocked at the sheer number of books. I’ve had three years to grow accustomed to the shock, and, in fact, have developed something of a routine.

I rifled through the “pamphlets” first (only twenty-five cents each!). There were some real gems to be had here:

  • Amish Portrait and Pictorial Oaxaca, both of which are photo-essays on their topics
  • Strawberries: King of the Fruits, a detailed guide to raising strawberries (best advice: to control weeds, keep a flock of geese)
  • The Cub Scout Songbook
  • Tales of French Love and Passion
  • The Step-By-Step Guide Book to Home Wiring, which may be out of date but how can you refuse at twenty-five cents?
  • The Lesbian Relationship Handbook
  • Livin’ in Doom Town: A History of Albina Gentrification, a bitter polemic regarding recent Portland history
  • The Copyright Primer for Librarians and Educators
  • Cliff’s Notes for Paradise Lost, Beowulf, and The Odyssey, all of which are works that could use a little explanation…
  • The real find were a collection of a couple dozen opera-related items, most of which were the large booklets from old vinyl record sets.

The pamphlet section is always crowded, and people jostle for position without regard to traditional etiquette. Last year and this, I’ve had the misfortune to stand next to pungent men while sorting through the pamphlets. I probably missed some good ones in my hurry to get to fresh air.

This year, I didn’t buy as many books as in the past. I’m trying to exercise fiscal responsibility. I did come home with four lovely large hard-bound volumes on various topics: Stephen Foster (who wrote “O Susanna!” and “Camptown Races”, among other songs), the American Revolution, and the great operas.

After the book sale, we returned to Mitch’s apartment, where I played Magic: The Gathering with Brandon. All four of us then played The Game of Life, which Zoe gleefully won by a large margin.

In the evening, we drove to McMinnville for a nice dinner with the Hamptons and the Bacon-Flicks. We get together with these old college friends about twice a year now. (At one time, Chris and Cari were our best couple friend: we did a lot with them in the years after we graduated from Willamette.) Michael and Laura live in a beautiful old house. They talked about how much they love McMinnville, how much it feels like prototypical small-town America. Cari and Chris talked about how much they love their jobs. Again, it was fun to see children beyond those we normally encounter. Kaden and Ethan are polite, intelligent little boys. Their earnest natures amused me.

Tomorrow we’ll drive down to see Jeremy and Jennifer. Rumor has it we’re heading to a pumpkin patch. I’ll be sure to take my camera.

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