As it turns out, fall will come whether it’s wanted or not. Despite best efforts, there’s no way to immobilize summer, and the leisure it represents, cling onto your baby so tightly that she can’t get on that school bus, or glare at the phone long enough that you will it into ringing with your dream job offer. You can, however, embrace autumn (see below), smile into your baby’s eyes and wave as she gets on the bus so that she, too, smiles, waves back and feels an enormous thrill within herself that she carries into the world. And eventually, after exhaustive measures, by way of divine intervention, you see the fruits of your labors manifested, at long last, as that job offer phone call.
Autumn can feel like a slap in the face. (e.g. Relinquishing your toasty bed at 6:00am for sunless, sub-freezing temperatures.) Or, it can be a splash of cold water that jolts you into hyper-awareness, productivity and incredulity.
When I was little, I looked forward to my November birthday, but still felt the coming changes acutely. September brought new-but-the-same schoolwork, more responsibility, some possibility, often disappointments, and always, the cold—The kind of cold that defies layers and transcends time, seeps into your very core, up your spine, neck, scalp.
Somehow, in 20 years of New England life, I never once went apple picking. Last week, Jonathan, Violet and I set off for truly Northern North Country. It so closely resembled the backwoods of Vermont, that we nearly forgot ourselves. Jonathan found an orchard 20 minutes away that was uninhabited. We walked way out to the back of the orchard, where it abutted thick forest, and there we found the most flawless, flavorful, Snow-White-Minus-The-Poison apples we’ve ever tasted, not a brown spot to be found, no human voices, other than our own. It was Violet’s idea—her grandparents took her last year and she had been hearing each of her classmates, in turn, say they had gone apple picking over their weekends. The orchard smelled of everything you’d want autumn to smell like. It was, for an hour, an escape. Inside the farm shop, we got apple cider donuts and I found some hand-painted botanical note cards that I bought for each sister.
So this is autumn in New England.
What happens if you take unforgiving fall, turn it right side up, and go inside it?
6 Ways I Crawled Out of the Gray, Into the Inside of Fall:
1) I went apple picking. I won’t tell you the orchard we went to because I wouldn’t want it getting marred by people. However, there are many such places to be found. Epiphany: The further off the beaten path, the greater the joy.
2) I went walking. A dear friend pulled me out of darkness by first sending me encouraging text messages, then leaving me a voicemail that said, “I know you aren’t up for talking right now, but know that I am here” which meant more than I can express. She walked with me, in and around fall, inside fall, talked to me, listened, transformed fall into something less foreboding. This walk has since morphed into a Women’s Walking Group, a weekly avenue to get inside of fall. This friend even took time out of her busy life to proofread a cover letter I was working on, offering me valuable editing suggestions and encouragement. I will be forever grateful to her for pulling me out of the gray, for not leaving me when I felt most lost.
3) I picked up a book. On the library’s “Recommended by Staff and Patrons” table, I found Out of the Woods: A Memoir of Wayfinding by Lynn Darling. It is about a woman who drops her only daughter at college and must navigate the wilderness (literal and metaphysical) alone in the woods of Vermont. This book’s therapy was two-fold; it gave me a parallel story—some company really—during a time of transition. And, it delineated a lonelier, lost-er scenario than my own, in essence furnishing some much needed perspective. (i.e. Violet may be gone for 29 hours/ week, but at least she hasn’t left for college.)
4) I got a call saying, “We’d like to offer you the job.” I think God may have read my last blog entry. I was plucked up from rock bottom—an unforgiving place that I believe Mr. Lewis Carroll is well acquainted:
“’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.”
What are these toves and borogoves Carroll speaks of? You will not likely find them in the dictionary. I reckon they conspire in the murk, beneath the rocks in that aforementioned bottom place.
While on the subject of toves and borogoves, and with Halloween a day away, my 5th way of crawling out from the undergrowth:
5) I identified the 3 “witching hours” of my days: a) Approx. 7:00am, the moment of entry into wakefulness when my heart goes haywire and I feel panic about the day. b) Between approx. 4-5:00pm AKA no-man’s-land-time when Violet gets home, it’s not quite dinner time, fatigue sets in, there is not enough time to go anywhere or do anything of substance, but there is still this period of vacancy that can quickly spiral downward. c) Approx. 10pm, bedtime, a strange time of lying in bed awaiting the arrival of a great mystery called Unconsciousness, whilst holding onto a hyper-conscious rundown of my day (why the defeats more than victories? Why full recounts of conversations?) This is when things become larger-than-life. My unpleasant chore of the next day becomes impassable and impossible. “Tomorrow” takes on a life of its own, assumes gargantuan proportions and becomes unrecognizable… until the next morning when I complete said chore and discover that worrying about it the previous night was 100x worse than actually doing it.
In identifying the above trifecta, I have found I can’t really eliminate them. Rather, I concede they are trouble spots and am trying to exercise caution.
6) I turned off Nirvana.
“I feel stupid and contagious…”
“No I don’t have a gun…”
“Go to a lake of fire and fry..”
“I’m so ugly, that’s okay ’cause so are you…”
Yeah, that’ll do it. Why every radio station was playing Nirvana through all of September and October, I’ll never know.
I asked my mom—perhaps the Greatest Fan of Fall That Ever Was (she leads her grandchildren on a wild goose chase for “signs of fall” in about early August)—what she likes most about fall. Her answer was something about colors and candlelit dinners, the woodstove and family. She had trouble narrowing it down, which led me to wonder if perhaps fall is more of a sensation– that a person either has it or they don’t. She called back a few hours later to say, “No humidity! THAT’S what I love about fall! Ever since your father got us air conditioning…”
I asked Violet what she loved most about fall and she replied, “The leaves!” I think because she thought that was the answer she was supposed to say. As soon as she found out my motive, she said, “No more answers for your chicken blog!” and left the room. Violet may be right that I’m not revealing any radical solutions in this here chicken blog, but maybe I’ll take a cue from the ‘90’s band Oasis and “start a revolution from my bed.”
-“Don’t Look Back In Anger” from (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?
Soil and sand returning,