It’s fall here now. Here in Minnesota. I am on my porch with long underwear on under my pants and a heavy sweater on over my t-shirt. I have a stocking cap on. But the windows are still open to the chill and the drizzle and the low clouds outside. I will sit out here as deep into autumn as I am able, clinging to whatever bit of fresh air I can grasp before winter sets in and leaves the landscape dark, white, barren, frozen.
In three days cricket’s winter starts with the first test between South Africa and India. The match will be in the city of Visakhapatnam, India. The average high temperature of the city in October is 89.1 degrees Fahrenheit, the average daily humidity is 74%. The record high is 99 degrees Fahrenheit. The Bay of Bengal rests at the stadium’s front door.
Wednesday in Minnesota the high temperature will be 58 degrees. It will be raining. I have a dentist appointment that morning in the city where I lived for 13 years, where my ex-wife still lives. I will bike up the hill from my apartment to Snelling Ave and catch the A Line at St. Clair Ave and take that up to Roseville. I will get my teeth cleaned. And after if the rain has stopped I will bike to the office: down Hamline Ave to Como and then east to downtown St. Paul. It will hurt, being back in that city, it always does. I will keep my gaze south away from the house, doing all that I can to avoid riding past the house, or even on the street up the road from the house, or by the gas station around the corner, or near the coffeeshop up the block. And I won’t take the trail through the woods where we would walk our dog on sunny fall days. I won’t do any of that. Then again, maybe I will.
The Tests between South Africa and India will take place for the most part in the middle of the night on my watch. The openers will trot out just as I am going to sleep, and when I rise in the morning and shower and go to work their day will just be wrapping up. The shadows long on India’s east coast, night coming, as the sun in Minnesota finally finishes charring the other side of the world, and rises over the horizon to bless us with its low-angled autumn warmth. Someone might bat all night in Visakhapatnam while I slept, while half the world slept, a man in white standing up and seeing off ball after ball, just a tiny speck of humanity on this vast globe, in all that heat and all that haze.
I have woken up on many mornings during cricket’s winter to see who had batted all night, while I had slept in the back bedroom of our little house on Oxford St. One sticks out, Alistair Cook against India. 2012. Getting up with the dog and my phone in the December dark. And that feeling of knowing what he had done all night while I slept left me melancholy, small somehow, the size of the world pressing down on my senses. Three years and change later I woke up to a NY Times breaking news alert on my phone: David Bowie was dead. It’s like after that, the world started to tilt when it spun, and trying to breath was like slipping on ice, everything felt askew, like someone in the night had rearranged the furniture not in my house but in how the world was.
I stopped getting up and checking the cricket scores on winter mornings after that. The world drifted in odd ways, I drifted in odd ways. Things fell apart, the centre held but not like it used to. As if Bowie had been propping up the universe, and now there was no one left to bare his load. The things that I used to enjoy disappeared, I disappeared, and now I am here, and here is far removed from before January 2016, far removed from those dark mornings in deep winter in 2012-13, the first winter after we had ran away, and then ran back, and everything was slipping into place, only to be over turned and scattered a few short years later.
On Wednesday morning I will bike through Roseville to the Dentist. 14 hours later openers will trot out into the heat and the haze of a cricket stadium in southeast Asia. A murmur of crowd, the rhythm of bat, ball, run in, boundary, polite applause. I will be asleep for most of it. Sleeping the fitful, restless, interrupted sleep that I have been sleeping for the past almost 17 months. In the morning before dawn I will get up. There won’t be a dog to let out. Instead I will dress and make coffee and watch the sky go from black to gray. And, I think, I will check the cricket score. See what had happened on the other side of the world as I slept. See if anyone batted all night long.
A batter batting all day is one of cricket’s great joys. From the early morning dewy session through to the heat of the afternoon and finally to the twilight of evening. Like Monet’s waterlilies, tracing the sun across the sky, light falling in different ways, all on the same setting. Lilies on a marsh in Monet’s case, a single batter on a field of green on the far side of the world in cricket’s. But batting all night is different. Knowing it happened all while a hemisphere slept in the dark cold of northern winter, the batter pushing the sun across the sky, giving it back to the other side of this giant world for a short time, it’s rays bringing the joyful knowledge that we had made it through another night, as well as a reminder that every night ends, every winter ends, and every sorrow, eventually, ends.