Autumn, At Last
A new season. I’m ready for the trees to do their thing. I’m ready for color. I’m ready.
There’s something almost musical about the trees as the dogwoods and sumac begin to flame. Then the yellow hickories, maples, and oaks add their voices. And on it goes until the mountains are cheerful and colorful.
Beautiful music day after day. Right now, a tree here, a tree there. Unconnected, but enough to keep me going, to give me hope of more vibrato around a curve. I’ve been known to stop the car and take a photo of a tree, maybe a maple with an orange tint—a tree I couldn’t look away from.
Right now, I’m grateful for every tree or shrub with a tad bit of color.
Of course this reveals a little about my hard summer.
As I look back, it’s almost as if I’d had a shot in the arm that numbed me for a few months. Like one of those shots the dentist gives and you can’t feel your own gums.
My summer. Days were almost twins to the previous days. I entertained myself with laundry, dogs, grandchildren. And oh, we had four wrens—two with babies in a hanging petunia basket on the front porch. (Watering the petunia was not easy!) And two more nesting on the back porch behind my yard shoes in a tater bin. I could no longer use the shoes—they’d become shelter for bird eggs, then nestlings. And of course, we couldn’t slam the door or Mrs. Wren flew wildly.
Entertainment. I plucked dead petunia blooms. Two petunia plants on the front porch took 15-20 minutes of plucking every other day, during the sunny hot days of summer. Somehow they survived me, and I became quite attached to them, so now I can’t bear to see them die. The plan is to give them to Norfork High School to keep them alive, to divide and resell next spring.
It was grief. I didn’t want to be grieving, you understand, but I’d pushed it aside as long as I could. My sweet life of coming and going had come to a halt, being with friends had stopped, living carefree was no longer my style. Life had changed, and the mask was a constant reminder.
And writing. The energy it takes to write had gone elsewhere.
Nothing to understand here. Just one of those five stages people go through when they lose something that was once dear to them. Some of you know much about such grief.
I reveal this, thinking someone might identify with my long summer. It often helps to know you are not alone with your grief.
Oh, and did I say I’d learned in June that I’d become allergic to a medicine I’d taken 8½ years, a medicine for cancer survivors? It took time to identify the source of the problem. Upon learning, I gave up the medicine, and life began easing up.
On the first day of August, I snapped out of my burned-out, coma-like state where I had felt numb but functioned quite adequately.
Happily, after July closed its door, I saw where a press had extended an invite to send chapbooks (short poetry book) to them. It stirred something in me.
Suddenly, I had more energy. Looked like a little fun to me.
Actually, the invitation with a deadline looked like something I could do. It looked like a ladder. So many times, I’d asked God for help. Here it was in a fun form.
If you don’t write, you might not “get” this, but I needed a deadline. And writing has always been a joyful thing for me.
I didn’t try to understand any of it. The nudge inside me was enough. I began.
It meant collecting some of my poems and putting them in an order that made sense. I wrote two or three more, of course, but the beautiful part was becoming aware that I already had the poems! I had what I needed. I’d had them for months, some for years.
August. Grandchildren returned to school, and I returned to poetry. I met the deadline. I submitted the manuscript on the last day of the month, even though I was not quite through—they needed more editing. This is what some of us writers do— almost no end to editing.
Because of so many changes that should have been done, I then withdrew the manuscript from the press. I’ll get it published, but what I really needed was that deadline, something to get me going.
There’s more. During August and September, I gave up coffee! Brutal. Then I gave up decaffeinated coffee. I know that should be easy and okay, but my body must have known it was coffee.... Two funky days later, I had energy and no headaches.
Decaffeinated tea. That’s my hot beverage now. Maybe it’s just sipping something from a hot cup in the morning that appeals to me.
Every change counts. Little ones, big ones. I keep trying to let God be in charge, and there’s usually one more change I need to add or subtract. Just glad He’s not through with me yet.
Ironically, the chapbook is called Letting Go: When Holding On Is Not Helpful. That makes me smile.
Perhaps my words will help someone in the process of letting go, in the process of healing. It’s not always easy to let go of what has been your career, your children, your friends, your people, your place, your things. Not always easy, but often, the smart move when holding on is not helpful.
I continue to hold tight to my God. It’s a relationship I hold on to because of my beliefs.
Next week’s blog won’t hover over my summer, but I felt I owed it to you, my readers, to tell you about my summer break from writing my blog. Thank you for your kindness.
Blessings to each of you,
Petunias, a reminder of summer.
Photographed by Pat Durmon, September 2020.