It’s hard to believe another Autumnal Equinox has arrived, although the temperature’s return to coolness, coupled with cloudy grey skies and moody winds, certainly heralds the season in its customary style. I welcome the bittersweet depths of it.
I’ve been able to take Teagan and Gracie out for walks, thanks to the miracle of a strong knee brace, and every day, another view or smell enfolds us more securely into autumn’s magic and mystery.
Last weekend, my beloved and I completely rearranged the front garden. Because of my healing knee (which is strengthening slowly and steadily), Phillip did the digging and dividing, while I pointed most effectively and expertly watered the resettled perennials. The space now looks messy and a bit sad, I suppose, but I see the garden of my dreams, and will always remember a day when my dear husband loved me enough to dig and divide and plant (and, of course, replant again, off to the right) an entire garden, for hours and hours…just to make me happy.
I treasure such days all the more because, of course, we’re aging and, curiously, time’s passage seems to be accelerating. While healthy and reasonably strong–the doctor did stress what “great knees” I have despite my injury (!)–I know it will not always be so, sooner than later.
Every day together is a gift. It’s always so, but I suppose autumn reminds me how briefly we rise and bloom before everything gets turned under for new–for other–lives to rise. Friends and loved ones have died, of course, and I miss them all, but when my close cousin lost her husband to cancer this past summer, I took an emotional dive unexpected for its intensity.
Perhaps because our lives have been so intimately shared, seeing and feeling her grief as she finds her way without her dear one has made my heart sad. Her children and siblings are lovingly present and supportive, but no one replaces your heart’s partner and the decades of companionship, routines, private intimacies and jokes you’ve shared, or the dreams you hoped might still come true.
And so, I feel like I’m traveling beside her during this first year of loss, and every moment I share with Phillip I imagine her journey alone accompanied by memory’s whispers and echoes.
One of my patients once shared her grief journey following the loss of her husband…I remember she said how colorlessly life flowed by for a few years, just drained of anticipation, joy, and liveliness. She said she’d felt nothing but numbness. And then one day she was with friends in Piccadilly Square, walking through the door from a shop and back to a street crammed with people and life, and she said, “Just like that, there was color everywhere, and I wanted to be part of it…”
I know my cousin will heal as the months and years roll by; she’s a strong and creative woman, and a treasured gift in the lives of her family and friends. In her own time, she’ll reconnect with the world’s needs and energy, but every grief, of course, colors every view perceived thereafter, and the lessons of loss become integral to every impetus to act and every response to life we offer.
And maybe these are the elemental gifts of grief, the palpable ways both life’s fragility and resilience are held by those with great grief as a boarder rooming forever in their heart. If grief’s paths are traveled with an open mind and spirit, however slowly and despite wavering and gradual degrees of acceptance, it can bestow a depth of wisdom and compassion we often otherwise lack. It’s a choice, this panning of the mud and shit of our lives for gold. And the gold is always love. Love gets turned under in the soil and feeds new life with its story and all those stories that came before. All the love my cousin and her husband shared, created, and offered to others throughout their marriage doesn’t end in grief, but in continued explosions of love blooming in the world, forever.
So, here we are, together in our autumn, deeply aware of the ways years and lifespans edge away and must one day be turned under to nurture and make way for new lives and new stories. For now, we divide our fertile offerings to love and replant them, dreaming of gardens to come. Autumn reminds us that every day is a gift to be unwrapped with delicacy and attentive appreciation for all things that fade away.
Look! Here is a beautiful garden that one man toiled for hours to dig and plant and tend and grow, just to make his wife happy. Because he loved her. And she loved him. There is the gold. Explosions of love forever.
A Blessed Equinox and Autumn to all!
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