Fall is my favorite season. It’s that in-between, messy time when summer’s wild growth stops, the heat and humidity abate, and the natural world begins to slow down. The deep greens become golden, fiery, the leaves tumble into piles and drift along the roadsides and yards. The dust settles onto the goldenrod along the gravel road to my house.
It’s harvest time, apple picking time, apple pie baking time with the sweet smells of cinnamon and apples filling the house. It’s a time to build fires and dream. It’s the time to prepare for the season of turning inward.
No longer summer, not yet winter, fall for me is a raucous season of change. It’s a time of beginnings and endings, sometimes both the same. This fall is one of those times. I have a new book that I’ve put out into the world and I’m looking forward to reading from the book, sharing poems, starting conversations between writer and listeners/readers. Having these love poems out in the world feels like both an ending (publication) and a beginning (readers discover the poems and bring their own life into the words).
But this fall the readings are different. My book launch on October 7 is a virtual event, through Zoom (see the invitation on Events page), as are other readings. Some readings are being held outside, and others, later in the season and winter, are still “let’s wait and see where we are” events.
The pandemic that shut down so many things in the spring of 2020 continues to influence the way we live. Wait and see. But what to do while we’re waiting?
“I’m so tired of people saying that this is the new normal,” a friend said. “I don’t know what normal is anymore. This is just what we do now.” We were both wearing masks and she was standing at a check-out counter behind a plexiglass shield. All around us people mingled; they were looking, shopping, some masked, some without masks. It’s not the way I want to define “normal.” It’s not the way I want to live. But it is what we do now.
Even though life-saving vaccines and masks that help keep the virus from spreading have become hot-button political issues for some, most of us are just trying to live the best way we know how, adapting, accepting, following the science, and taking precautions to help stop the spread of this deadly virus. This is just what we do now.
I spent the last week in Southern Pines at Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities, a place I’ve loved for many years. Now I’m learning how to love it in new ways as a member of the Friends of Weymouth Board of Directors. This new role is a lot like the season as I find my way into this position. I had little time for writing this past week, but a lot of time for memories.
The poems, the talk, the smiles, the laughter, the hugs from friends, and the joy of meeting and hearing new poets at the North Carolina Poetry Society meetings still fill the great room and the gardens. Even though the NCPS has not met here during the pandemic, the spirit of those meetings remains, held in this house, in this season.
I sit on the upstairs porch, reminiscing with friends from decades ago when I lived in Fayetteville, 40 miles south of here. “Ah, he was something special, wasn’t he!” the woman says. Before I can do more than agree, I’m called back to the work of the present.
The leaves are beginning to turn. There’s a chill in the air, and my window is open to the call of crows, bird chatter, a morning rooster, the train whistle, the swish of traffic along Connecticut Avenue, where my friend and amazing poet Shelby Stephenson and his wife Nin lived years ago. When the afternoon sun pours through the windows and fills my room with light, I fall in love all over again.
When will we be free of the constraints of this pandemic? What will the new season look like?
What do we do now?
We can write poems. So, I do.
Today the trees release their leaves. The wind
a breath that calls the colors down to earth —
wild dance with crimson, gold, and brown
aloft in death, unfurling flaming fields
and forest floor. If I could hurl myself
like this into each ending, long for nothing
sure or safe, but celebrate the letting go,
descend, a woman trusting the fall.
I’d release all claim to expectation,
breathe the air of possibility,
find beginnings everywhere.
I’d settle down to loamy earth long enough
to nourish life that waits, growing still
in the summons from a savage world.
from Nothing Below But Air (2014, Main Street Rag)
first published in Redheaded Stepchild