I feel autumn. The obvious signs of its approach are not yet here. Leaves aren’t turning and the temperature isn’t dropping, but I feel it. Maybe it’s how the rays of sunlight fall just a bit more angularly at sunrise and sunset or the tease of a crispness in her air that whispers of her coming.
The longer I am here, the more I love leaning into the melancholy this season brings. There is a peace in the richness of her. She is mellow and persuasive as she gently pulls me to her…with both a comfort and a tinge of sorrow. I feel a sense of “settling in”…literally falling into her arms and the sweetness that brings of my slowing down, wandering inward and knowing that I am safe as she transitions me to winter. Knowing that something new is coming, but finding peace in not knowing what or precisely when it will arrive.
My birthday is in September. Every September, Freedom Park, a park in my hometown of Charlotte, hosts its annual Festival in the Park. I went every year, but this particular year, the year of my 13th birthday, I met up with David and a few of his friends. I remember our sharing the sickly sweet left over pink cotton candy one of my friends bought and couldn’t finish, the sticky and grainy residue of it on our fingers, but he and I held hands anyway. Our palms stuck to the other, our fingers woven together like the soft loops laced together in those old potholders we used to make at camp. We laughed at the juggling clowns, even though I was too embarrassed to tell him how afraid I was. Their painted on smiles and the unsettledness of not knowing what was truly on the other side of that big red smile and nose. He bought me a helium balloon and tenderly tied it to my delicate girl-wrist. We walked around the pond’s edge together, holding hands, laughing…when it happened.
He kissed me.
His friends were close by but knew enough to give us this moment…they kicked the dirt and laughed too loud while we kissed. A fumbling kind of kiss, neither of us sure why we were or how long to stay there. It wasn’t yet clear to us what people do with their arms and hands while they kiss…and that darn balloon…it kept bumping into the sides of our heads…the taste of cotton candy again…the sweetness of it on our lips and of this memory as I recall it now. I remember feeling the sense that something was floating away…an innocence perhaps…I didn’t meet it with regret or anxiety…but did note it…aware that something was changing…unafraid of what was to come but knowing that something was.
Later on that night, just for the fun of it, we broke the string that held the balloon to my wrist and let it go…watched the balloon float up to heaven…trying to see it until we could see it no more.
My mother’s birthday is in September. She looked like autumn. Her hair was a muted shade of red…hints of silver growing in with each passing year. She lived in that open space of fall…the older she got the more surrendered she became to her body’s aging and the joy of it…not knowing what might come in a day…letting go of control and finding peace in that. The day before she died, my daughter and I visited her. My mom was napping on her bed…her hands gently folded across her chest. Helen, only three then, commented quite nonchalantly. “She looks dead.” My mother jumped up, awakened briskly, in that funny in-between sleep and awake space, to shout rapidly as she shook her head. “I’m not dead. I’m okay. It’s okay.” We all laughed really hard.
School starts in autumn. There is, of course, the annual journey to Target for school supplies…make a day of it…buy some clothes and eat lunch on the way there. Fall is like that for me…a clearing away of everything on my desk, in my life…a chance to pull out the new notebooks, pens and pencil cases. Open the spiral notebook, each sheet of lined paper, empty for now, unwritten waiting for something…something to reveal itself in that nothingness.
I love autumn. Find joy in its melancholy…to feel it so deeply…down in my bones. The permission to retreat, hibernate a little and feel empty…feel the something of feeling nothing…just because I do.