Xideka (pronounced “Zi’-da-ka” for those who don’t know) asked me the other day if I loved Autumn. I said that I did, but that it was a bittersweet love (of course, having to divert to explain what “bittersweet” meant) because, although, it is truly lovely — and this year even more than others — it is also the death of Summer, and the birth of several consecutive months of cold, cold Winter.
I changed my mind about the bitter part this past weekend.
First of all, to be fair to myself, this is where we live. This river runs right through our town. Unless you are wearing waders, a dry suit, or have an aqua-hypothermic death wish, you can only be in this delicious looking river about 48 days of the year — if you are extremely dedicated. But there she is, beckoning on a sunny day in October, so decidedly gorgeous, so inviting, so like a freezing Siren — she calls me while remaining completely out of reach. Our swimming spot is just around that bend up there.
But to be honest, when I finally took this picture today, I wasn’t missing the river, I wasn’t dreading Winter, or brooding about how Autumn mistreats my heart. I was appreciating those soft giants sitting steadfastly on the horizon. We have mountains at the end of most of the streets in this town. On a day like today, walking from our home to downtown, with the sunlight gleaming across the blue sapphire sky, and fire-leafed trees lining the streets, those mountains shined like old friends’ faces waiting at the end of every path.
Speaking of leaves — I have never seen a more beautiful Fall leaf-turning in Montana than this year. I know my perception is being slightly skewed by memories of last year’s early frost, and subsequent several months of dry brown leaves hanging like corpses from every deciduous tree in town. But I still think this year’s extreme moisture throughout has engendered the Autumn with a virility and vitality grander in hue and bloom than I can remember seeing here in my 14+ years. The walk today was littered with love letters from the trees in every color you can imagine except blue, which seemed to be the sole property of the sky.
As I think of it now, my appreciation for the frigid river, the mountains, the rusting leaves, and even the season itself this year was colored, if you will, by my experience yesterday, when we went to the local Fall Harvest Festival at the PEAS Farm, a cooperative farm in the valley on the north end of town which cradles the Rattlesnake River. There were hay rides behind the bio-diesel tractor, fresh pressed cider from apples grown on site, live old-time music, a raffle, and all the trappings of a functional farm, from chickens and straw bales to…
The Fall Harvest Festival is something to which we look forward every year. We know we’ll have our fill of cider, and kid fun, and family community. We know Natalie will at least gut, if not also carve, whatever pumpkins with which we come away. We know it will be chilly, but that the girls won’t want to leave until I am begging to get warm.
It is a ritual, much like similar ones our ancestors all over the world would celebrate. I believe it is the stuff of magic, and of reassurance, and of the planet’s natural parenting of her human children. Which is to say, I think I have discovered that I feel better about this time of year (this year in particular), in part because we afforded ourselves this yearly ceremony and celebration of the time of year itself.
We stopped by the store on the way home and picked up the ingredients for pumpkin pie which I then made with Echo. We also toasted the seeds we took from the pumpkin on which Natalie and Echo collaborated. It’s an unassuming jack-o-lantern which we lit with a tea light candle later in the evening. It looks like this year’s version of Autumn to me.
And I love it so.
I hope your family finds its own ceremonies to celebrate the season(s). And that you yourself enjoy this Autumn, wherever you are, and however it is showing up for you. And also that you find friendly faces at the end of all your paths.