The last week has been strangely hard for me. A lot has transpired, and though I am not ‘young’ anymore, I am still learning about life and all of its complicated turns. As usual, in the world all around, I find lessons and inspiration of some kind. Every day is new in an old way.
She is changing colors, this earth, this forest. Sparkles of gold light the tulip poplars as the pale gold cups of its blooms did in the spring, yet this is a change preparing the trees for winter sleep. Some of the undergrowth has already disappeared back into the soil to await springtime’s renewed blessings. Too, some of it has begun to turn to yellows and golden tones. Here and there a bit of vermillion catches the eye, but there is none of the flaming orange or deep red among the leaves. Within a month, the woodlands will be all the colors of fire to balance the shimmer of frost. Living things follow this cycle without concern.
Autumn follows hot, productive summer, bitter chilly winter follows gorgeous autumn, and then spring comes tiptoeing back in with mud alongside its pale green adornments.
As the season coming is autumn, the opossums will seek the persimmon trees, looking for the wonderful flavor of frost-sweetened fruits and the raccoons will go a-hunting in the field corn for savor, as the memory of the last sweet corn from gardens fades. Already I mourn, as I have for each year since my childhood, the passing of summer’s rich tomato crop, glorious garden-fresh ambrosia sprinkled in sea salt, best eaten while still warm from the sun. People are gathering in firewood, beehives are filled with the last of the honey for the warm season, and everywhere rolls of hay are readying for livestock feed. Folks in the Appalachian lands are making plans for a batch of sorghum molasses made the old way via horse or mule power, or maybe they’re getting in the spices for a cup of hot spiced apple cider or pie by Hallowe’en night. School is already in session, children nodding off to the drone of a teacher’s voice in the late afternoons, students and instructor alike waiting for time to go home. Nights are cool, and sleeping under a blanket has become sweetly restful beneath an open window. The smell of bonfires has begun to scatter through the weekend nights, occasional live music echoing up and down the hollows with laughter alongside.
Words to be wary of: always, never, forever. Concepts each unreal – like unto perfection, which exists only as a standard.
Every day is different and yet the same. A spiral of circles by nature unending. I am guilty, as I suspect all people are at some time, of not looking past the view I see in front of me on the moment. While I dislike uncontrolled anger, I recognize fury and rage as useful tools when applied properly. I also hope to use it as a surgeon uses a scalpel, to heal. Sometimes I’m the one who needs the healing, sometimes not. So, too, is peace. One learns, slowly and painfully, to apply only the correct tool to the job. It’s part of learning a trade: tools are mandatory, necessary, and not always pleasant to use. So one uses them and then moves on, hoping to apply a more gentle solution to the issue in future.
Future. We stand in the middle of today, always, making history large or small. From the ashes of today comes yesterday and, perhaps perversely, tomorrow. ‘Future’ is always something to dream of, and yet never seen. The carrot dangled before the faithful burden beast, tugging it ever onward with hope only inches away.
Yesterday, to me, is a mélange of powerful country memories. Mamaw getting up early to make breakfast, the scent of hot coffee and fresh-baked biscuits with ‘hog meat’ and eggs, homemade jellies or dark wildwood honey from Papaw’s ‘bee gums’ out near the garden. Dad going out to feed his dogs after breakfast, leaping Beagles barking around his feet and mine as I helped him dole out the scraps left from supper and breakfast to them. The scent of woodsmoke and horses, fishy-smelling breezes coming from the lake – any time of year. In summer, the song of bullfrogs, crickets, and owls. In winter, the tune of a sharp wind bearing down a leafless hollow like the whine of some ancient fiddle in a cold wraith’s hands.
Present? Out of the ashes of yesterday’s memories comes the hope of a wood fire to warm at all winter, stocking up food and other supplies for the season. A little home repair or upgrade here and there, to tuck us in for the cold time, is advisable. Sources of seasonal entertainment stockpiled carefully: books, a few movies, a working radio with a weather channel capability. The scent of sage and sweet basil drying in a corner. The scent of clean cats, of dogs loose to romp among the woods, of horses and sweet feed rich with molasses. The flickering light of a candle to read by. These things are of the now and of home as we know it.
None of us can be sure of what the future holds, nor if there will even be a future for the individual; life is notoriously fickle. Yet daily, we arise, each of us a spiritual phoenix, and reach for a day full of promise in its mere existence.
From the ashes, out of the dust… these are the sources of inner fire, which burns bright in the darkest of times. These are the sources of hope. Of growth. For a true life, there must be fire, earth, the winds of hope, and the spirit to bear onward in the face of adversity.
I must remember: nothing else matters.