The Autumnal Equinox has come and gone in its usual mild-mannered way. No fuss, no fanfare, not the wild bonfires of Summer Solstice nor the beseeching fires of the Winter one, just a whispered turn of the page that says what we already know: “Summer’s over.” The darkness is tiptoeing toward dinnertime, the air is turning brisk, the peaches on the market shelves look tired and the apples crisp and fresh.
Fall in San Francisco ain’t New England or even New Jersey, in fact, it’s supposed to be our summer heat-wise when the fog finally leaves. (Though this year, someone forget to send the fog the memo.) Deciduous trees are a rarity and when they do finally turn, it’s more November and December. But still you can feel the change in the light and the air and the vegetables at the farmer’s market and school starting up and the three-beloved Holidays in October/November/ December to look forward to.
Truth be told, Fall has always been my favorite season and it would be an interesting study to see how the seasons appeal to different personality types. I took a little test from a book my daughter is reading to see if I was an introvert or an extrovert and by the end, decided I was an ambivert. The Orff workshop music side of me loves nothing more than dancing in circles with large crowds of people and ask me to get up on a soapbox to say a few words about any subject to any size crowd and two hours later, you’ll be sorry you did. But the writer/reader/ Zen meditation student/ traveler alone in the hotel room is quite happy in the arms of solitude and that’s the one who welcomes Fall’s invitation to begin the slow turn inward toward falling leaves and cozy nights. Spring is Birth and Renewal and Summer is exuberant Life, but Fall is the first steps to Death, not the horror of violence or failing bodily systems, but the glow of life well-lived, pulling in the reins and basking in the final rays of the sun, knowing that after the Winter ahead, the leaves will bud once more, the earth turn soft and the cycle renew itself.
Perhaps this all means something even more now, being myself in the Fall of the grand life cycle. 0 to 25 years old or so feels like all Spring new beginnings, 25 to 50 the Summer heat of life, 50 to 75, still somewhat in the game and able to walk through the Autumn woods and reach up to pick apples, but slowing down a bit to savor the harvest. And then 75 onward is when Winter’s chill begins, but hopefully still with its moments of awe and beauty. And according to Hindu thought, then the whole show again and again.
Of course, I hardly feel like I’m slowing down, in fact, seem to be ramping up and just when I thought I got to the end of my list and could maybe take a stroll in the park to look for a turning leaf, I received ten e-mails requesting responses with deadlines. The myth of Sisyphus is more than a quaint old Greek story! Some years back, I had the good sense to chuck the list and go out anyway and wrote a little poem about it. I’ll include it here— and then get back to my deadlines!
Today I caught a falling leaf
and crossed a bridge to my childhood,
where my friends and I spent hours spinning joyfully
in open fields chasing the spiraling leaves, until
dizzy with whirling, we collapsed
on the damp, musty earth, laughing
and then lay silently in leaf-caught bliss gazing
into October sky.
Now my days are so calculated,
Punched onto computer clocks,
Time spent lining up and knocking down e-mails
like obedient toy soldiers.
No sudden gusts of wind to send me diving,
No curve or crunch or carefree collapse.