Entering Autumn


Today is wet, quiet, grey. Today Florence’s outer fringes gently mist the valley with rain. It is strange to think that while we are caressed by the calm edge of the storm, its center is churning hundreds of miles away. It is strange to think that the water falling down on us has been recycled from countless storms, from the bodies of dinosaurs, from a time before life on this planet. Each raindrop holds within itself the memory of innumberable falls, evaporations, condensations.

These are autumn thoughts, liminal musings on the cusp of a turning season. The walnut trees, riffled by gusting breezes, have begun to weep golden tears. The Canada geese who raised their family in the cattle pond down the road have gone. The three fawns who bed down with their three mothers in the thickets in the field behind the house have lost their spots. They are middle schoolers now, hovering between childhood and adulthood.

For the past few days, my mind has been unwilling to settle to the task of writing. This is not writer’s block–I know exactly what I want to say, even how to say it–but when I sit down at the keyboard my brain simply won’t focus. This is a restless time of year. I am working on learning to listen to my body, my mind, my unquiet spirit, and try to respond from a place of understanding and compassion. Why is it so much harder to be compassionate to ourselves than to others?

Flickering flames, drifting smoke, crunching leaves, shortening days, frantic scurryings to-and-fro for kernels to hide against the coming winter. These are restless days, and perhaps that’s why I can’t seem to bend my mind to the story I want to tell. It is a winter’s tale–a tale of cold and lonely places, of long nights, of the glimmering darkness bounded by every human soul.

I have to remember that for me this is always the wanderlust season. Something deep within me longs to migrate when brush fires spring up on distant hillsides and the dirges of blackbirds ring harsh and sharp against the damp grey air. Against the hobbit-ness of my general nature, there is something in me that has always firmly believed that rain is for walking in, that storms are meant to be seen and heard and felt. Maybe it’s the delicate tremor in these faint tentacles of hurricane that hint of the turbulence at the center. Maybe we are all creatures of the weather, all migrating things. There is nothing that is meant to stay the same. Even rock erodes, cracks, shifts, accrues deposits, births worlds of moss and lichen, over time.

I wonder if there are certain thoughts that can only truly be thought at certain seasons. In the breathtaking opening to Bitter Lemons, Lawrence Durrell writes,

Journeys, like artists, are born and not made. A thousand differing circumstances contribute to them, few of them willed or determined by the will–whatever we may think. They flower spontaneously out of the demands of our natures–and the best of them lead us not only outwards in space, but inwards as well. Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection….

These thoughts belong to Venice at dawn, seen from the deck of the ship which is to carry me down through the island to Cyprus; a Venice wobbling in a thousand fresh-water reflections, cool as a jelly. It was as if some great master, stricken by dementia, had burst his whole colour-box against the sky to deafen the inner eye of the world

I have to fight the impulse to quote the entire first chapter. I love everything about it–Durrell’s lush prose, his deep quiet thinking–but what strikes me hard in this moment, as I stand at the crossroads between seasons, is the notion that certain thoughts belong to specific places and times. There are Venice dawn-thoughts, autumn rain-thoughts. Perhaps what matters is to give oneself over to them, to fully exist in the place and season that is now.

2 thoughts on “Entering Autumn

  1. Dear Brenna,
    Being able to “fully exist” in the present has been a constant calling and challenge to me in my adult life. Your writing consistently reminds me about this. Thank you.
    What I read from you also tells me that you have an amazing awareness about being present to “now”. Especially for such a young person, I am impressed and inspired. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Stan. 🙂 It is easy for me to fall into a trap of thinking that I can somehow flip a switch and be present forever. Your comment reminds me that this is always a process.

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