The thing about summer sky is that it’s inimitable. Spring sky has a pale, watercolour to it: blue is creeping out from under its drab winter coverlet, needing light. Autumn? It’s the sky that ‘lambent’ was invented for — light as thick and gold as honey. While in winter, light as sharp & bright as a knife blade. But summer… Summer sky is filled w/ clouds (at least in Oklahoma, where we’ve had the wettest late spring & early summer in history!), behind which a rich blue prairie sky serves as backdrop.
When I’m feeling healthy — when my arthritic fingers will clasp things, and my cranky knees & feet will carry me without complaint where and when I want to go — I can still taste the summer of my life. But to be honest, I’ve entered Autumn, when the vivid greens begin to incandesce and light takes on an incendiary glow.
It’s always been my favourite season, fall, at least until I’m heartily sick of winter, and the first cheeky robins begin their loud begging in the front yard. Something about the last hurrah before winter’s dark curtain falls, the flame of leaves and the smoke of frost.
So that’s what I’m trying to think about, as I turn the corner from the summer of my life into autumn. The vivid brilliance of a grandchild, the unfolding of time like saffron autumn crocus petals. And the knowledge that it doesn’t last, life. It moves through its own seasons, at its own pace. Even though we still say If I die — meaning, if I die before you. Because of course we’re going to die. It’s the basis of Buddhism, this knowledge of our inevitable demise. It’s what the Buddha found so hard to understand — how we can live beneath the burden that all we love is transient. And ultimately, it’s what gives each day its own inutterable poignancy — that icy blade edge of death beneath it all.
Which is fine, if you aren’t expecting to live forever. These days, it seems I am more & more aware of hourglasses — time & life as sand running through what seems like a pretty darn WIDE passage, they move so fast. In the meantime, I still get mad when people are cranky with me, even though I know life is short, and mad fixes so little. And I still roll my eyes when people do & say dumb things. Even though I know that no one wakes up in the morning wondering how best to be an idiot.
This weekend my beloved & his sister are moving my mother-in-law, as I mentioned earlier. My mother-in-law — she who took a master’s degree in Chaucer & Shakespeare, she who wrote the entire family history in a book — often has no idea who they are. She is locked inside a mental landscape w/out familiar landmarks — at least the ones that have names, that walk through her room. My own mother died curled into a quiet, wordless shell of herself — like a many-chambered nautilus w/out the sea creature at the centre. So I’m familiar with this fugue state, and know it may well be my own destination. Winter, for me, may be another blank landscape, obscured by relentless icy needles. The colours of autumn — which I can name, savour, inhale — are far preferable. And infinitely precious, since I know that whatever happens come winter, this bright autumn will pass.
My point? Beginner’s heart, folks. It knows you haven’t the time you want, much less the time you think you need. So breathe slowly. Look around. And if autumn is on your own personal horizon? Enjoy the colours. Enjoy the light.