Every fall I get the feeling I’ve been holding my breath. It’s a restless stirring and I feel like I need to inhale. I feel the strong desire to change something. It’s not a nestling, burrowing in feeling – it’s not shoring up for the cold, not storing nuts and seeds. It’s a feeling that I am in stasis and that there are invisible strings that are pulling me in all directions. These strings aren’t cruel, and in times like summer they can feel good. They’re little leads that tingle and bring me to something I wouldn’t have otherwise observed, wouldn’t have experienced. In other seasons there are reasonable numbers of these strings. I’m capable of following them and discovering what there is on the other end. In fall my body is on fire with them.
In my head, I want to be immersed in the lives of the people around me. I want deep connection. I want to hear the stories people have to tell with their mouths and with their postures. I want to know them. I don’t want to be in large groups, I want intimacy. I want to hear new stories and curate them in my memory. In fall I know that my memory has gaps, years that have been eaten by fear and forgetfulness, and I know that am missing things. If I cram the tales I’m told into these gaps, they may stop a flood. I replace my lack of narrative with the hundreds of narratives I hear and it is a good filling.
My spine longs to get in my car and drive away, to go anywhere. I want to see new things and new places, I want to observe architecture and the way that the plant life changes from north to south, the profusion of deciduous giving way to the evergreens and eventually to brush and shrub, rock and root. I want to listen to music and quietly drive, I want to feel the wind in my face when the car windows are open and it’s difficult to draw a breath. I want my hair to be carried on the wind and to become a life-form of its own making, beyond any control.
Then in my belly is the caretaker. I want to bake things and feed them to people I love. I want to create. I want to use the vegetables and the fruits of the season, the meats, I want to sculpt them into things that nourish and fatten up. I want to know that the people I love know I love them, and I want to demonstrate this love by feeding them. I want to brush my daughters’ hair and whisper strength into their bones. I want to walk with my husband in the dawn light, before anyone is awake, and hear the way his footfalls are slightly heavier than mine, slightly further apart.
My legs want to walk. They want to climb mountains. They want to hike and to feel the softness of giving earth, the slick of mud on rock. I want to smell the way the seasons shifting stirs the seeds, buries them in sleep so spring can waken them. The loam and moss are heady in the fall, not with the exuberance of spring but with the redolence of life lived, loves given, things needing to rest before renewal. I smell wine where the land is dry, and I want to taste it, dispel it with rain and water. I want to be outdoors.
My hands want to make. They want to make scarves, they want to mend things that have been piling up all summer. They want to paint and to draw, they want to know they are key in creation. They will become near-violent if I do not indulge them and let them feel their worth. My hands might be the hardest force to deal with because they make my insides coil too tight with longing when I cannot fulfill their need.
My heart wants above all to feel stillness and forgiveness.
When I was ten, I was standing beneath two apple trees that we called the lovers. There was a path beneath them, and they stood at the crest of a hill, where the path below led to a brown house that fuels my nightmares. In the back of that house there was a shed, and that shed had a mattress of green egg foam. It wasn’t comfortable. I think that shed was the place where I lost comfort – it is difficult for me to feel comfort anymore. I was standing beneath two apple trees and gathering up the tart crab apples. I knew they had worms in them but I didn’t care. I liked to bite into them and feel the way my nose would wrinkle involuntarily. I liked the idea that feelings could be involuntary. Ryan was there too. He told me he loved me, and that love would always be this. I wanted to throw an apple at his head but I turned around and I ran home. I was wearing a skirt that I had been gathering apples in and I remember the sick thick thudding of those apples on the ground, hitting my legs and bouncing off them before they made it down. I wanted to run away. I wanted to be anywhere else.
I think fall was the season where I learned that love was my body being invaded. And I think that’s why fall, though it’s my favorite season, causes a feeling of panic and restlessness. I want stillness. I want to feel calm washing over me but it’s really impossible in fall. I want to pick apples and think about apples and not think about how I wanted for years to be able to turn invisible so nobody could ever find me.
I move to nurture others because I want them to feel a padding of love surrounding them – I want them to be able to sustain themselves even when things are impossibly difficult to comprehend. Even if they wake up in fear and go to bed in fear every night, I want them to have this bubble that kneads their shoulders, tells them it will be okay and it is not their fault. I move to hike because when I am in motion I am not afraid of being caught. I want to be strong because I can keep moving and when I keep moving, I feel like there won’t be as much danger. There isn’t danger anymore and most of the year I feel that but in fall I can’t believe that.
I want to hear other’s stories because I want to believe that there are people who had a beautiful childhood. I want to believe that there is hope that everyone I love will escape feeling trapped. I want to plug the gaps in my life by taking what others have experienced and daubing it in, like glue to hold the vase together. Sometimes glue doesn’t work and sometimes sisal is needed, sometimes twine, sometimes laminate, sometimes bronze casting. I just want it to hold water.
Most I want to love as fiercely as I can. I want to love strangers. I want to love the clients I work with. I want to love my friends. I want to love my family. I want to love people who have hurt me, and people who I have hurt. I want to forgive and to be forgiven. I want to grow and change and I want to bury myself deep in the mud so I can emerge again in spring and I can grow and grow. I want to commit kindnesses and I want to see others committing kindness. I want to kill all the bad feelings in the world by just loving them hard enough to get them to comply and stop being pain and start being growth. I want to acknowledge the humanity in everyone. I want to see others doing it. I want love to be the casting that keeps the vase together and I want to taste apples and pumpkins, I want to feed myself from the inside out and I want things so hard that wanting becomes agony. I want an anguish of kindness to let me forgive. I can’t forgive yet. Maybe I’m not trying hard enough. It’s been almost thirty years. Please let this be the fall I learn to forgive.