Thursday, October 05, 2006

October Sky

Photo 161

Look, I want to love this world

as though it's the last chance I'm ever going to get

to be alive

and know it.

Mary Oliver, "October"

I woke up with hope on my tongue this morning. It was a sweetness on the flesh of my lips, a tiny taste of something larger than myself, some reason to get up this morning and partake of a mad world.

I have been resentful as hell that it's autumn. But this morning, something shifted.

I have spent the past couple of weeks in fear. Dread, from the Old English, ondrædan may be a better word. My fearful self counseled against staying here through another winter. Winter here is cruel. There is no mercy in the January wind, no safe place to walk when treacherous February freezes every surface.

As much as I love autumn, its beauty is ominous. And for the past two weeks, I've allowed that sense of fear to cloud my ability to see the beauty around me. To lose track of time and space and my own heartbeat amidst the roar and rush of fear.

Photo 154

But how can I not love these colours? My computer camera does not do them justice; it cannot catch the glow, the iridescence, of a dying leaf lit from within. The sun merely illuminates that last burst of dying energy. It is a gorgeous, melancholy, but joyful, hopeful thing.

I didn't go to work straight away this morning. Instead, I fixed myself my usual two cups of coffee, ate a bowl of cereal, and decided to go for a long walk. There was a bite in the air. Today, we'll be fortunate if the temps reach fifty, and the Arctic wind, blown across the Canadian prairie, whistled in my face as I trudged up the hill. There was a canopy of trees, all in various stages of turning. The willows were still green--they are always the last to turn around here. According to the meteorologist on the news last night, we are at 50-75 percent peak, which means that we'll be at 100 percent in a week or so.

The peak will break your heart. I often drive for dozens of miles, up into the hills, just to stare at the hillsides. It becomes like living in the middle of an impressionist painting. Oranges, and scarlets and golds bleeding into one another against a cerulean sky.

Autumn reminds me that dormany comes. Transition comes. And change happens.

So many of the people I love are in transition. I have spent countless hours the past few weeks listening as friends try to process the changes that are happening in their lives. And my beloved grandmother, Hilda Raymond Bradshaw Priestley, who came into this world in 1916, will not live to see her next birthday. She is dying, and as much as I will miss her, I know that she has lived a long and joyful life. She herself says that 89 years is enough. And so my prayer for her is to have death come to her on her terms.

We are a nation in transition, too. It is autumn for this country; all around us, the leaves are changing, and many, many of us are afraid of the cold wind that blows through Washington and bites us all.

But I'm tired of the fear. I want to embrace the hope of what could be, instead of focusing on my dread of the possibilities of Yetis.

I am not naive. And I do not have expectations. The wisdom of the rooms is that expectations merely lead to resentments. But hope. Well, "hope is the thing with feathers." And today, I intend to fly.

I no longer want to anticipate the worst. To do so merely allows the worst to happen to me twice: once in my imagination, and once in the the future--if it is to be. If the future is bad, I'll deal with it then.

For now, I want to embrace my own reality that, while fully aware of the ugliness and horror of everything around me, is also deeply cognizant that while it is not yet the autumn of my life, I am close. So I must embrace where I am. Now. Today.

When death comes

like the hungry bear in autumn;

when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;

when death comes

like the measles-pox;

when death comes

like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:

what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything

as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,

and I look upon time as no more than an idea,

and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common

as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth

tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something

precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don't want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,

or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

Mary Oliver, "When Death Comes"

Besides, even in winter, there is still beauty in the stark reminders of loss.



Chad Smith said...

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me

I love that stanza.

Heartland1 said...

"The wonder of the world, the beauty, and the power, the shapes of things, their colors, lights and shades, these I saw. Look ye also while life lasts."
Gravestone Inscription, Cumberland, England