Yesterday was the first day of the year to bring in an autumn cold snap here in Northeast Ohio, along with the remnants of the tropical storm that came through Florida last week. Since I woke yesterday, it’s been a slow, steady dripping rain… the kind where you can still open all the windows and feel the brisk air and hear the gentle drops on the leaves.
This time of year is my favorite. And even though I know it will warm up again and we aren’t quite to fall, for today, I get a little teaser of what’s coming… The air changing. The fall leaves turning. Halloween - which we go all out for around here. Decorating the house with warm oranges and yellows. Cooking stews and chilis and pies. Filling the air with cinnamon and pumpkin candles. Remembering it being my mother’s favorite time of year. Remembering it being my late-fiance and I’s favorite time of year too. There’s so much richness in the fall.
About 6 years ago, I was given new and different reasons to appreciate this time of year…
Drew had just died, in the middle of summer in 2012. In those early months after his death, I was still in shock and barely eating, much less sleeping. I spent many sleepless mornings sitting on the back porch at his family’s ranch back home in Texas, where I was staying after his crash. And I just stared. I just stared out blankly at the dimly-lit pastures of oak trees and cacti until the sun finally came up to warm me. I spent nearly all my time those days alone, out in nature, just walking and feeling the earth. Watching everything go dormant and turn brown and quit growing… I found comfort here. I found comfort in watching nature unapologetically change. Showing it’s less attractive side without shame or concern of what anyone would think, simply because the season required it to do so.
I love this idea. And this is why I love fall even more. It’s beautiful in a very different way. It’s rich with a bittersweet quality that no other season has. The fall reminds me that my own desire to go dormant from life is natural. It reminds me that I will have seasons too… seasons of beginnings, endings, preparations, and vibrant growth. And like the trees, I am free to be unapologetic in expressing whatever season I happen to find myself in. I am free to let that season show its colors, or lack thereof.
Nature never worries about alarming anyone when all its leaves fall away. It never worries that it will make people uncomfortable when all the color drains out of it. It simply knows what to do, and it does it, and we can take it or leave it as we might. If only we embraced our own seasons with such confidence. If only others welcomed our darker seasons as freely and easily as we welcome the seasons of the year.
Sure, it’s much easier with nature. It’s defined. We know when it will begin, and when it will end. And people like to have things defined. It gets scary when it's not defined. Grief of course is certainly not linear in that way… which I think is what makes it so hard both for us to live in, and for others to accept.
Maybe still though, there is comfort to be found in relating our grief to the seasons. Maybe it can help us to allow ourselves to be in a season of endings when we need to be... and not try to force ourselves to "be happy" or put on a show for others that isn't part of our current season. Six years ago today, I wrote about not being able to sleep, but that I was getting to see more sunrises than ever before. Six years ago, simply sitting in nature while it was also experiencing an ending of its own, gave me probably more comfort than just about anything else. It was nature that allowed me to be exactly how I was, but also reminded me that everything - even pain - is temporary.
This is the deeper gift that fall gives me... aside from all the autumnal colors and smells and foods and happy memories. Aside from the excitement of Halloween the brisk air. It is the season that reminds me to be ALL of me, unapologetically.