In many ways, this has been a difficult fall for me. The health of ill family members have worsened. A cousin--a young, well-loved woman--died. Some stories that students trust me with are heartbreaking. Insecurity, in its strange high-schoolish form, keeps poking at my back. And people I love are moving away. There are so many forces pushing against each other inside of me that often when I return home from work, I feel the bruise of exhaustion in my organs. Especially my heart. It feels raw from beating.
But then I find myself on another walk, standing underneath a collection of leaves that are as red as any working muscle, and it's an improbably beautiful thing. Beautiful in its color, yes. In the way the light sweeps around it. But also in that it's this red right now. That I'm in the world on this exact axis. That I did not arrive one day earlier--because it would have looked some other way--or one day later--because perhaps tonight there will be wind or rain or the leaf just letting go. It's improbable that of all the leaves that are changing, I would be comforted by this one.
At times I find it frustrating that no matter how much I love Autumn, no matter how pathetically I might beg the leaves to linger, they won't wait. They don't pause out of sympathy. They don't even think of me (they're leaves). They just come and go, life's-a-cycle, la-la-la.
But it's important to recognize that I don't wait for them either. No matter how much I might want to in a particular moment--for the woods are peaceful and full of gentleness and such a safe place when I am feeling all this out--I always walk home. I move forward. However formidable winter might seem, this season teaches me to walk into it with the memory of light held close to my chest, for this is one way to stay warm.