There was a hint of fall in the air during Labor Day weekend

There was a hint of fall in the air during Labor Day weekend. Summer is a wonderful season, as are all the seasons here in eastern North Carolina, but the ability to sit outside without sweating and swatting mosquitoes — what we enjoyed this past Labor Day holiday — is a real joy.

A constant but gentle breeze lightly caressing my cheeks, feeling as if my skin was brushed by that Osprey feather lying on the ground next to me, helped keep the bugs away. I’ll take the whispering wind — a natural insect repellent — any day over Deep Woods Off. The chirping of an Osprey behind me, I imagine maybe it’s the one looking for his lost feather, momentarily distracts me from appreciating the breeze.

Accused time-to-time of a too vivid imagination, my accusers have a point. My mind’s eye is all seeing, a symptom probably of growing up in the 1950s and ’60s.

I grew up middle class, but we still had to do without — without, that is, not counting our imaginations that could — and did — conjure up anything we needed or wanted. We had it all.

Playing pickup baseball on a vacant lot with a ball but no bat? No problem. We’d just throw the ball into the field as far as the runner could throw. Our imaginations heard the crack of a solid hit and watched that ball fly through the bright, blue sky just inside the foul line for a game-winning home run deep into the stands full of cheering fans.

Back to reality and sitting in an Adirondack chair at the water’s edge this Labor Day weekend, the “bright, blue sky” stretched before me reminding me of our end of summer sandlot baseball games. The sky doesn’t seem quite as big as it did back when we were kids. The fact I’m physically bigger is one reason. But another is trees. While we’re blessed with our forests in eastern North Carolina, trees obscure a big sky.

Not today, though, in that Adirondack chair. A large bay opens up the vast sky in front of me. Puffy cumulous clouds lazily float by, allowing my imagination to run wild, my normal adult skepticism and learned cynicism momentarily suspended.

W.C. Fields appeared in a cloud. I recognized him right away. And then he transformed into Jimmy Durante, their mutually prominent proboscises shared in the cloud formation.

I don’t know of a person much younger than me who might have recognized W.C. and then Jimmy D. in that cloud. I wonder if it’s just that they’re bygone celebrities, soon to be erased from the public mind or whether younger people never learned and don’t make the time to find shapes in the clouds, their activities more inclined toward modern electronic pursuits that require little — if any — imagination. As much as I liked W.C.’s and Jimmy D.’s work, I hope it’s the former vice the latter.

Because then a man lying on his back, feeding himself with his left hand — I imagined grapes — appeared in a cloud. My gaze shifted down to a dragonfly hovering reed-to-reed, and when I looked back up, the man’s left arm and head were unrecognizably obliterated by the winds aloft.

Looking left, there was a fish in the clouds. Turning from the clouds to watch a pair of Cloudless Sulphur Butterflies kissing in a mating dance, the fish was gone when I looked back up. But there was a sea horse in the clouds to replace it.

And then the sea horse was gone. But a giant Pac Man-like cloud about to eat a smaller puff-ball of a cloud — I imagined it an orb of freshly spun cotton candy — drifted by. I imagined sharing the cotton candy with my grandkids.

Then the backside of whom but the Michelin Man appeared before my eyes. I may have been the only person in the whole world to see the Michelin Man in that cloud. Having not done anything I could acclaim as singularly unique or vitally important among the seven billion plus people in the world I, at least, have a legitimate claim to being the only one of us seeing the Michelin Man way up there.

A mermaid, a whale, a smooching couple, a long-tailed dog, a duck in flight, and finally an elephant slid by in that big, blue sky. As I contemplated the clouds, the tender breeze still kissing my cheeks and repelling the bugs, I closed my eyes and dozed off for a moment.

A laughing gull flew over and woke me, its ha-ha-ha-ha call making fun, I imagined, of my out-of-control imagination. And then I imagined that the gull really didn’t care about my imagination as long as that fish in the water was more than just a reflection of a cloud.

Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at fetzerab@ec.rr.com.