It’s dark when I wake up, but even stranger, still somewhat dark driving to school today at 7:30 am. And an early San Francisco rain to help it feel a bit darker yet. Autumn is upon us, but so far, minus that crisp smell in the air and the promise of pumpkins that has warmed my heart my whole life. Though Fall in San Francisco is often a summery affair, the summer fog finally lifted and some beach-worthy days in September and October, still I hold my New Jersey memories in my heart. The color of leaves, the smell of them and the beauty of them whirligigging from the high oak tree branches down to the earth, often with that little boy I was running to catch them. The darkening days turns some ancient soul inwards and home takes on the feel of indoor warmth and coziness.
I do miss those Eastern Autumns, but still I keep my tradition of reading a Dickens book each Fall, not only for the memorable characters and beckoning plots (which my leaky memory luckily mostly forgets on the re-reads), but for some association with the fireplace and being wrapped up in a story when twilight comes right to the door of dinnertime and the days grow short. Fall holds for me the sweet melancholy of this fleeting world, the reminder of mortality, but the promise of it being as easy as dropping from a tree and melding with the earth to spring to green yet again when April rolls around. I feel that wistfulness in the Japanese haiku poets, particularly Basho, whose best poems often come in the Autumn season.
Are trees ever sad? Does the sky weep? Do the mountains ever feel melancholy? I think they do. We humans claim the center stage of drama and think only we ride the roller coaster of emotion, but on a slower, less dramatic, more accepting and more balanced level, I think the natural world feels such things too. And not just the weeping willow tree. The air sometimes hangs heavy in sadness. But then the harvest moon creeps over the horizon and it takes on that bittersweet tone of beauty mirrored in a pool of quiet reflection. When we humans can attune ourselves to the natural world in all its many moods and colors, joy becomes less manic and sorrow less depressive.
The election drama (Tragedy? Comedy? Amateur play?) is casting a different kind of dark pall over our days. Everything pushed to a dangerous edge shouted on by the dying Roman regime hiding its empty soul through the spectacle of gladiators fighting a senseless battle. So far from the invitation of the October sunset to turn inward and contemplate how little time we have to love and be loved and find comfort in friends and family and look further to see friends in distant families we will never meet. We gather our harvest and they gather theirs and it’s the time to be grateful for what ever bounty of life comes our way and keeps feeding life, not for mere survival, but for the extraordinary privilege of being alive.
My carrot soup is simmering on the stove, the house is empty, the lights are low, my book or the piano or a Humphrey Bogart film on TV await me. The days are darkening and I am falling slowly into them, with Autumn color in my heart.