Tuesday, September 01, 2009

september has arrived with nothing less than the promise of fall

I woke this morning and that phrase came to me as soon as I pulled back the curtain that covers my bedroom window to reveal the thick, cool fog that was enveloping my mountain. I wore knee socks under pants and a sweater when I left the house, and a sense of dark nostalgia was piqued when I inhaled the crisp air. Fall is here, the season of my birth, the time of the darkening, the quieting, the cooling of our days and nights.

When I got home this evening, I was struck with it again. The temperature in my house had dropped, and I was struck by my sense of foreboding, by my sudden urge to build a fire to ward off the cold. It felt premature, this longing for a fire in the hearth. Wasn't it August just yesterday, the dog days of summer?

I changed out of my work clothes (an odd, new phenomenon to me since I began my internship, I was wearing slacks I had actually ironed in the morning and professional looking clogs too impractical to walk the dogs) and into jeans and a long sleeved pullover to take my four dogs on a late walk. It was almost eight o'clock, not an uncommon hour for me venture out, but this evening I realized that this was the first evening in quite some time that I was gambling I may be returning home with just enough light left to see.

As I walked through the dimming with my pack, once more I felt a tinge of fear. We were heading into twilight and I was a lone human traversing isolated woods, only I felt I wasn't alone. I was having visions of bears out lurking, hungry bears, as they, too, would be feeling the first chills of fall and readying for their hibernation. Would we run into each other on my late jaunt?

I thought deeply as I walked, the typical phenomenon of my over-active mind going into complete overdrive when there is no other verbal traffic to interfere, and pondered why the arrival of fall necessitated I feel this sneaking sense of dread. Was fearing fall an evolutionary imperative that assured my ancestors would hurry and put up a winter's worth of preserved food and seasoned wood so they would neither starve nor freeze before the season's end, and I was tapping into some quiescent remnant of that instinct that I no longer need having access to grocery stores and fossil fuels? I also noted that though the moon is waxing, my cycle is waning to that hormonal drop off that will commence my menstruating soon, but hormonal downshifts sometimes precipitate dark, anxiety-ridden thoughts in this particular bleeding woman. Perhaps my hesitancy to embrace the seasonal shift was simply a case of PMS?

Nah, I know what it is, and I've been bluffing all the time. Somewhere, deep down inside, I have always been afraid that I am cursed for bad things to happen to me in the fall. It seems that in my life, if bad things are going to happen to me, they are going to happen during the fall, and these aren't just going to be trivial bad luck days, they are liable to be hellaciously dark experiences that change the course of my life. Such as...

Eighteen years ago as I entered my freshman year of college, a childhood girlfriend of mine was murdered in a mall bathroom in the new town where she had just moved to start her first year of school. A few weeks later, another girlfriend and I set off to Boston for a series of four consecutive nights of Grateful Dead shows, for which we had ordered tickets long in advance. One of those shows just so happened to be on my 18th birthday, and when the mail order tickets arrived we were thrilled that the tickets for September 25th, my special day, were embossed with gold foil, and we had been singing "I've got the golden ticket!" Willy Wonka style in eager anticipation, yet the pall of our friend's death clung around the edges of our minds as we embarked on our journey. The whole trip ended up being edgy. The shows were good, but it was hard to really connect with the bliss being so far from home with this recent murder on our minds. Then our ride decided to leave town early, and we had to sell tickets to one of the shows to make enough money to get a bus back to Pittsburgh.

Our bus was due to leave town at 3AM, and the taxi we called to take us to the bus station never showed. After almost missing the bus, we spent the next TWENTY HOURS in a public transportation nightmare that was complete with creepy perverts, a missed connection in the chaotic NYC Greyhound station for we two, sleepless, weary and freaked out girls, and the most phenomenally absurd happenings, like Bill and Ted riding the bus to their stop in King of Prussia and drunk Indian men getting trapped in the bus restroom and pounding loudly begging for help to get out. To top it all off, I came down with a wicked bout of the flu, so by the time we rolled into the Pittsburgh station, I wanted to climb into bed at my mom's house and never leave again. There were good times on that trip, and some great stories emerged from it, too (right, Al?), but as time has worn on I have found that those memories are forever tinged with the sorrow around the tragic loss of our friend.

Two years later, fall, I was quite pregnant and had the first uncomfortable stirrings of asthma in my lungs, which has grown successively worse each year. I cried when the doctor diagnosed me and handed me that first cursed inhaler. The other chronic ailments from which I suffer have all cropped up, some with a vengeance, in the chilly days of autumn, as well. That same year, the day before my birthday, my sweet puppy Zelda was killed by a car on the busy street in front of my house.

In later years fall brought me the break up of my relationship with my kids' dad and another nasty break up after him, the devastating miscarriage of my third baby, the powerful and frightening dissolution of my beloved's sanity that resulted in his involuntary commitment the same year we bought our house which left me alone, ever since, responsible for our property, and the stillbirth, on my 33rd birthday, of a dear friend's baby delivered into my terrified hands.

Darkness touches all of our lives, and some of us dance more intimately with the darkness than others. I have long felt that I am one that has been called to work, at times, within the veils of life's dusk and murk. Perhaps that was why I was born so close to the autumnal equinox that heralds the time when our Northern Hemisphere culture shifts into the chill and obscurity of cycle's end. Or, perhaps my own birth, when I came to my mother, herself a very young woman without the stability of a loving, safe partner and supportive family, was marked by darkness and stress, and thus it comes around to me when my body begins to sense the shift into harvest's end.

So what can I do? I'm not really afraid; I am merely lost in the musings of what my repeated and unbidden sense of foreboding today might mean. I am actually a remarkably ecstatic human being, no longer prone to the heavy weight I often felt as a young woman being initiated into a life of navigating the turbid, composting cycles.

To not let the dark envelope me into gloom, I knew I needed a remedy. I took tonight off from all responsibilities, and I tended to myself. I played Songs: Ohia albums and got lost in Molina's mournful croon. I ate warm, nourishing foods: lamb, broccoli, quinoa, and gluten-free raisin toast. I treated myself with a batch of my own homemade goat milk, maple, pear custard, because my friend Elon, the brilliant acupunturist, tells me that warm pears are supportive fruit for lungs, and fall is the lung season in Chinese medicine. I infused and drank hot, deep, supportive herbs: dandelion and ginseng and wild yam roots, nettle leaves, and horsetail needles. And I spent time at my long neglected craft, writing this blog for you.


Anonymous said...

ooh i love songs ohia. glad you took the night off. ssgonna be ok. -meems

Shatuga said...

This is beautiful and poignant:

"Darkness touches all of our lives, and some of us dance more intimately with the darkness than others. I have long felt that I am one that has been called to work, at times, within the veils of life's dusk and murk..."

And so true. As for myself, I was deeply touched by your intimate outpouring, grateful for the demonstration of how to care for self, and now am introspective into my own dark hours.

I have always felt to be one forever on the outside of the glass looking into the candy store at the rich and successful lives of others.

Though, by my own standards, I am rich and successful, I always feel as if precious things are slipping away. But I never got to enjoy a Grateful Dead concert. -POUTS!- Poor me!

My dark times are clouded by my own poor choices more than random circumstance's grim reaper. Not that I have regrets: I've come to embrace who I was as the foundation for who I am now. And I like me!

And yes, when the first chill of autumn bites, be it the season of the year or the turning of our own thoughts towards dark times, there's nothing like a good, warm cup of tea, a cozy sweater, some fun socks maybe with toes! And a friend.