It was the year autumn went on forever. It was early November and the streets of Venice were nearly awash and shrouded in a perpetual fog. It was the beginning of Winter in Vienna, and I wandered through a frozen winter garden outside a palace where an elegant throng in evening dress waltzed behind closed glass paneled doors, silent as ghosts. It was just before the ski season in Interlaken and I hiked spellbound up mountain trails above Alpine meadows where the silence was punctuated by the faint distant bells worn by the cattle, and where the fall of a clump of snow from a branch was as loud as a heartbeat. A woman I met on the train to London told me of the mountains of her native Utah and advised me to go see them. New York City was cold and forbidding and I stayed only long enough to get on a bus for Salt Lake City.
I arrived to clear desert air and the Wasatch Mountains rising blue and transparent over determinedly suburban neighborhoods, their fussily clipped green lawns a testament to the relentless watering. As soon as I could I headed up past the University into the mountains, to find crisp fall foliage and winding trails up into the hills, where I could see the surrounding desert and the dessicated white expanse of the Great Salt Lake, and on the horizon the burnt cinnamon scar of the Kennecott open pit copper mines, the largest man made excavation in the world. I turned my back on the devastation to the peace and silence of the mountain, and discovered that November was deer hunting season in Utah. It had been just before dawn when I set out, and soon I could from my high vantage point spot the hunters as they swarmed over the hills below like an army of beetles in day-glo vests. I could see the early sunlight glint on gun barrels and bandoliers of cartridges and soon the silence was punctuated by multiple discharges as they began to blaze away at invisible targets.
I was annoyed to have my peaceful reverie disturbed and was about to pick my way back down when a sudden movement in a cleft just below made me freeze. There was a rustle in the shrubbery and a family of deer stepped delicately into view and proceeded calmly and without haste to make their way into the next valley. While I watched bemused, a steady trickle of them proceeded by groups along the same path to what I was later informed was a Nature Sanctuary. Undeterred by the escape of their quarry the hunters continued to blaze away behind me.
I have tried many times to add up the images of that long ago Fall into some kind of coherent pattern of meaning. If there is one, it eludes me.