Thoughts on Where We Are…Autumn

Thoughts on Where We Are...Autumn

Autumn is approaching…with winds and light rains, leaves beginning to fall, crops being harvested, trees becoming barren. Ah, the cycle. These weather patterns contrast with the drought and dryness in other parts of America and the world.  What does nature know that we do not about the length of our days? Why do some regions have bounty and others experience loss? Is there something we need to atone for?

Probably. But though despite the shadow fo global warming, I’m determined to enjoy autumn once again. I have a large planter of yellow and burnt ocher mums nestling by pumpkins on my front porch. My autumn welcome sign is hung and a wreath of yellow leaves blazes in in my living room. This is my time. For me autumn is always a beginning.

A CLEARER PICTURE 

When things fall back toward the earth, the outlines of garden and lawn, of walkway and road become more apparent. This precise definition creates a sense of order and organization. In fall there are memories of wild vines and riotous summer flower color. But now it’s best to be more satisfied with quieter denser things like clipped boxwood and evergreens, like bare tree trunks of grey and soft brown. The air is cool. The skies seem swept up too, presenting swathes of crystal color. Cold air outlines things so definitely, you can almost see each leaf and branch.

ORDER BRINGS TIME FOR CONTEMPLATION 

Definition and order soothes the soul. I lean toward putting things away in their proper place. I lean toward knowing that everything sleeps quietly waiting for a reawakening. This is a time to store energy, to store knowledge. It can be a time to read great books and contemplate, make decisions.

If you seek solace and quiet, this is your time. For as we move inside to do our living, placing things we love like a bright pumpkin or a sheaf of leaves on table surfaces, or brightening a room with a flowered pillow or candlelight, it can also become a time to move inward in our thinking–to meditate and determine more and more exactly who we are.

Autumn decorations can remind us of endings, yet good endings that are resolute and leave us feeling blessed, not sorrowful. Autumn is the time of atonement for the Jewish people and how appropriate to tidy up one’s soul as the earth is preparing for sleep and hibernation, as winter winds are soon to come and humans are stocking up on food energy and light energy, hoping they will provide the ability to survive.

ATONEMENT

But no matter what the season, we should atone for the hurts we have caused; we should try to mediate our expressions of anger. And certainly if we have hurt someone we need to ask for forgiveness, hoping that if someone has hurt us, we can find a way to forgive that person, lighten the loads we often carry. And of course, we must try to forgive ourselves.

SETTLING IN 

It’s a little early, but there will come a time as the days get shorter that we will want to settle back into our brains and examine who we are, where we are going, and how we might improve. Life cannot be lived like the riot of spring where nature blows her wad and lets everything grow and rush about. We enjoyed that fertility. But now it’s time to be more judicious in our use of harvest fruits; we need to carefully use and share our bounty.

Certainly in the spring, when life comes back, we have no fears of the future. But in the autumn, we need to count the jars in the cellar, the apples in the basket, the sins on the soul. We need to tidy our lives and draw within to discover how we will survive, how we will make it through the dark times of our life. And how we can help others through their darker, harder times.

FINAL THOUGHT 

In each of us is a light deep within. Sharing that light draws bounty, brings good things to us whether the world is hard-packed snow or dry desert. Autumn can provide a time for atonement. Winter and beyond can be full of the light of love as the grace of forgiving someone brings the warmth of reclaiming love. If you are feeling like all the days of your life are hard, cold winter, then it’s time to open up to those around you, to share the light within you. IT WILL BRING YOU HAPPINESS. As a wise woman once said to me: “Feeling sad today? Then go out and help someone else.” She was so right.

(this is a rewriting of an older post, but it always feels just right…)

Making Change

Making Change

Pumpkins on the porch.

Change resides within us. We are protoplasm in constant change. And yet simply meditating on the word we often have mixed feelings–a child growing taller, a baby learning to walk, a college student finally passing that worrisome class, a new job, a new house, marriage–change, a moving forward. But the other side of the change-coin can be connected to loss. Change doesn’t always have to be about death, but it is about the need for adjustment, for possibly “seeing” our lives in a light not as bright and exciting as youth, but possibly a softer, calmer light. But we are all constantly, though at different rates, making change.

As a young reader, in my tweens, my mother suggested that I read a book by Jan Struther, an English author. The book, MRS MINIVER, began as a series of columns published in THE TIMES London, which were later collected into a book. Many of you will recognize its title because of a film of the same name released in 1942 in the middle of World War II and the Battle of Britain. I liked the film, found it moving as it portrays how an English family faces change during the war, including their experience of Dunkirk.

But I loved the book. And many autumns I went to the shelf in the Walker Branch Library in Chicago, where I knew I would find it–it’s tangerine cover always waiting for me, as if no one else ever checked out this book.

The following quote gives you a taste of what I was drawn to:

“Mrs. Miniver suddenly understood why she was enjoying the forties so much better than she had enjoyed the thirties: it was the difference between August and October, between the heaviness of late summer and the sparkle of early autumn, between the ending of an old phase and the beginning of a fresh one.”

That section went on to praise autumn as the beginning of the year. Many of you might feel as Mrs. Miniver and I do–that autumn IS the beginning. As a teacher and as a student, the ability to wear sweaters, have a pile of freshly purchased notebooks in my arms and to walk through leaves that crunched under my feet into halls of learning–was the beginning. Not January 1st.

I know it was unusual for my young self to be so interested in the thoughts of the main character who really was Jan Struther, an English woman living and writing about a life so totally different from my own. Here is another quote from her book:

“It’s as important to marry the right life as it is the right person.”

Certainly, that idea lodged in my unconscious too, as I was determined that my high school sweetheart, who I have been happily married to for 45 years, and I would see before us a shared life. And as as we dated we talked about what that life would look like, we planned.

In rereading sections of Mrs. Miniver after so many years, I find some of my own mid-life thoughts. Maybe that’s because I have arrived at an experience of life similar to the place she inhabited when she wrote the book. Life is change. Mid-life worries reside in my character Emily in my short story, MAKING CHANGE. Emily relates:

The Medical Center was hyper with people, some in wheelchairs, some on crutches, others being rolled back and forth on gurneys by attendants in bright green scrubs. I watched them going in and out of an elevator that I knew could suck me up into the center of the building and hide me away in some surgical suite. I thought about how warm the dishwater would feel if I were home cleaning up. I imagined the invigorating whip of wet wind that would surround me as I raked leaves in the rain. But I sat.

For a while I tried to trick my mind, pretend I was younger and pregnant, waiting for a checkup. But the game was just that. Going to the doctor’s had meant reading maternity magazines in the waiting area and then getting the news in a pink or blue examining room that my weight was good and the baby was developing nicely. Now the magazines I picked up advised about sunscreen to prevent skin cancers, diets and exercise to ward off weight gain and its companion, diabetes…”

But after a meeting with an old friend who is struggling in ways that Emily never foresaw, Emily makes a promise to herself, to embrace her life.  After a phone call with her husband, she reflects. “We talked. We shared words of love for one another—easily and openly. When we hung up, I found my mind singing Why me Why me—an invigorating question, not a complaining one. Why me to be so lucky to have all that I did have? Why me to now be eager for the future, no matter what it brought?”

Jan Struther wrote that though she enjoyed holidays, she was always relieved when they were over. She writes that the feeling was perhaps:  “…the measure of Mrs. Miniver’s  peculiar happiness—…Her normal life pleased her so well that she was half afraid to step out of its frame in case one day she should find herself unable to get back.”

I love that–the belief in the framework of one’s life. It does go back to accepting and balancing the concept of change. When autumn comes and the leaves fall and the pumpkins go on the porch or firewood is ordered–there is change, but familiar change, the very steady tick and tock of life, comforting and reassuring.

We must embrace it and honor it. And we must do what we can to help others who experience massive change that tears at the heart and soul of their normal living–helping with and accepting the illness of a loved one; being there for a friend who is recently divorced or has lost their home. However life proceeds, change will be part of it. Being able to go with the flow, to find a “measure of peculiar happiness” to be “eager for the future no matter what it brought” will see us through today and into tomorrow. Happy Autumn.

To read all of MAKING CHANGE, check out my collection of stories: A Mother’s Time Capsule. Available here. 

Making Change

Emily wanted to rake leaves in the rain.

Photos, thanks to: Ciao Newport Beach www.opiekunki.aterima.pl