this is not who we are or why we’re here; we know it. life imperiled, imploding globe poisoned, oh perishing whale pods and flashing schools in the seas, butterflies, bees, and beings unnamed, unnoticed species, vast and vanishing, ancient, noble, hidden insects, reptiles, fungi, birds, and plants, love’s endless invitations refused, the kinship of life denied and dying, reaching for hands reaching only for power, hearts blind to the binding that might have been— perhaps the web has torn beyond mending; perhaps it was all a dream.
but here we are, hope-filled not helpless, an infantry of two, a coup fueled by yearning and what we know is true, armed with our tulip bulbs, hyacinths, daffodils beating back fear, scattering promises of rainbow explosions where others threaten bombs, planting resurrections in the dark to remind us who we are and may be when the light returns, and knowing it will.
Surprisingly synchronous with the arrival of the equinox, our temperatures have fallen to cooler degrees and, as the year continues its turning, our daylight diminishes in its hours. This shift is felt on every level, by each of the senses and all of the inhabitants of our little cottage and the surrounding countryside.
We’re going to bed a bit earlier and rising later. Our business in the gardens and with house projects has actually increased during our briefer days, however. We are definitely the fabled diligent ants rather than the idle grasshoppers. We know the time of closing in and shutting down is rapidly approaching, and the ancient instinct to harvest before the arrival of killing frost is as great a motivator to us as to the squirrels gathering their seeds and acorns.
We’ve cleaned the house from top to bottom, literally, with Phillip climbing the ladder to get at lights, fans, artwork, and very high transoms. Closets and drawers have been sorted and winnowed along with the houseplants, who have returned indoors after their summer vacation. Boxes of clothes, dishes, accessories, books, and duplicate plants have been donated to local resale shops. My former writing area is now an indoor greenhouse, and the seldom-used smaller guest room is now designated as a writing, reading, and dreaming haven.
The gardens are being trimmed as necessary; we’re still waiting for a sustained nighttime temperature of 28 or so to get the new tulip bulbs planted. I thought I ordered 100. Surprise: 200 beautiful bulbs arrived! Call me mystified. Or forgetful? (Call Phillip something else.) I am earnestly, daily (and sometimes in the wee hours, sleeplessly) seeking every available spot to plant these, and am quite certain The Great Tulip Adventure will be one for the books. Something we’ll laugh about.
Autumn and spring, its counterpart in the seasonal dance, are usually hectic times for readiness and attending to checklists, so this bustling energy is not unusual, but it is perhaps a bit more driven this fall because I’m scheduled for a procedure called a “total reverse shoulder replacement” at the end of the month. It seems my autoimmune diseases and age have rather dramatically decided this year to create arthritis wherever I’ve had former injuries, so the long-ago shoulder repair needs updating, and the opposing knee will be replaced several months later. These changes are welcome for the relief and renewed strength I trust them to deliver, but to call them an adjustment easily accomplished would be a lie. They’ve presented a depressing struggle against a reality I’m only beginning to accept as necessary and am still wary of befriending.
But I will.
I’ve spent my adulthood working out and honoring exercise, eating healthily, enjoying physical activities, and trying to tend my spirit. I resent the hell out of this physical weakening and am ashamed to see and present myself as an invalid. I hate the ways I’m now dependent upon Phillip and how it’s increased his chores. His kindness and gentleness have been remarkable. I’m tearfully grateful and then feel guilty about the imbalance this has caused. I’m not useful in this partnership. I cannot walk the dogs, or lift a lot, or clean or cook, or hike as far as I like, or engage with yoga or go for a bike ride, or plant the damn tulip bulbs I ordered months (and a lifetime) ago, without assistance. I’m tired of adapting everything I do, and I’m scared that these surgeries and the endless healing they require may not succeed.
And then I recall my parents’ illnesses, and those of all my elder beloveds, and my hospice patients, too, all of them struggling with their pain and suffering, all the crosses borne and none of them deserved, and how little I really understood when I offered these people my comfort and presence. I wasn’t insensitive or ignorant and I tried to rest in compassion during our time together, but living through the role of the other this time around is a new experience in deepening awareness. Which is always a principle lesson in our suffering, isn’t it? That it makes observed pain vividly experienced and real. It’s humbling and leveling and changes us and the ways we offer comfort forever after. Or, at least, that seems one of the great invitations to me.
And, although I lapse and occasionally/daily indulge that tiny, tension-releasing and rewarding fantasy of slapping people like Donald Trump and Ginni Thomas upside the head, this jarring experience of being dependent and feeling my life held in a kind of suspension more often makes my judgments soften and my acceptance of “what is” gradually reveal a clearer path.
All those wisdom nuggets about loosening resistance and accepting what’s given as gift (if not the gift at the top of my Christmas list) widen the way before me. I read some markedly evolved person’s suggestion that if we can accept these unplanned and certainly undesired events in our lives as experiences we’ve consciously chosen, everything about our relationship and journey with the experience will change. Not only will resistance cease causing greater suffering, but how we make and explore the meaning of these events will be far more loving, buoyant, and deepening.
The long days of summer that pull us up and out and keep us so very actively doing and thinking naturally give way to winter’s darker hours of dreaming and being, of going inward and exploring the heart’s and the spirit’s geography. My wish for us all is that these transitions flow smoothly and that our autumn and winter dreams bless us with awareness, healing, and a readiness for the light of spring. May we adapt to the seasonal adjustments in our lives with good grace and eventual acceptance, sifting always for meaning that enlightens us and deepens our relationships.
I leave you with this image…I was dressing, and happened to look up as the sunlight danced through the side yard’s maple leaves, which made their shadows flicker across and through my indoor plants…perhaps I’m easily amazed, but I found the moment stunning. I thought that sometimes we offer our dear world a disinterested glance, and she flashes back simple, utterly breathtaking miracles. Simple, small reminders that we live always amidst wonders if we look to see them. A much kinder wake-up call from Mother Nature than the ones offered by alarm clocks. May we be as kind to ourselves and others. Gentle Peace.