Autumn Reprise

Well, lookit you, November. Didn’t know you had it in ya. Very nicely done.

That slant of afternoon light is there, the bright blue of the sky and a blanket of gold on the lawn from leaves brought down by the weight of snow, now melted. My phone’s camera just can’t do it justice.

I got the fire started, and the S’mores made. Lit the Jack-o-Lanters for a few extra nights, until they took their place in the new compost heap that used to be the chicken run.

Mine is the only lawn on the block still covered with leaves, but I don’t care. The lawn guy suddenly seems to expect me to pay him in advance, before any work is done for the month.  Electric mowers are getting cheaper, and I had fun raking up a few bags of leaves to start the chicken-run compost. So maybe I’ll just handle it myself next year.

Angelic Daughter and I are gearing up for big changes; my going back to work full-time will mean she has to step up, step out and deal with new transportation, new people and new activities. I’ve been amazed and grateful and what a positive attitude she’s shown about it.

Anytime we have to change something that affects how she lives, what she does, where she goes and with whom she spends her time, it rattles me to the core. But I’ve got to suck it up and trust her. And trust God, who seems to keep throwing just what we need in our path just when we need it.

It’s concert week, and the choir I sing with is doing some incredibly beautiful, comforting music.  When the sound melds into one from out of the many and becomes a thing in itself, a perfect merger of text and music that swells or hushes with the promise of “lux aeterna” or the plea of “dona eis requiem,” I still get goosebumps.

I thought I’d be scrambling, but within the past two weeks everything came together to make sure Angelic Daughter has a companion while I’m at the rehearsals and performances we didn’t have covered yet, and even that she will be able to attend the concert. I can function when I know she is safe and well cared for.

Which is why this going back to work thing, as necessary and welcome as it is, still feels daunting. This has to work this time – I just can’t be interrupted with phone calls or texts constantly (while I simultaneously worry about why I’m not being interrupted with phone calls or texts constantly).

If you’re a parent you’ll never forget the first day of school, that autumn when you had to turn around and go, leaving your child in kindergarten. Maybe yours took it in stride (as did Angelic Daughter) but it didn’t stop the tears from forming, even if you were trying to hide them.

Fast forward through twenty years, and imagine having that experience over and over again, with each change of teacher, aide, school building or enrichment program. Will she be safe? Will she be happy? Will they understand her? Will she get any benefit out of this?

And now it’s happening again.

I’m counting on deep breathing, the kindness of people in our (relatively) small community, and help that keeps showing up unexpectedly, right on time.

So I’ll pack lunches the night before, (who am I kidding, I’ll do it in a mad rush in the morning) like I used to do. I’ll make laminated schedules and 3″ x 5″ card reminders and tape them to doors and put them in purses; I’ll add a few additional emergency contacts to her phone while also trying to teach her not to bother them unless it is a real emergency.

Tomorrow we find out if we’re set with the new program she tried out today, to fill her most of her day when I’m at work. I can’t imagine they won’t take her. She liked it and seemed really happy. I hope they don’t pull that rug, and leave us scrambling again.

Breathe.

I don’t want the lawn guys to come, yet. I want to savor this day, with the golden blanket of leaves, that remind me that beauty can come even when you thought the chance had passed.

I’m looking out the window through that gorgeous slant of sunlight, at the new chicken run compost heap with the Jack-o-Lanterns half buried in leaves, thinking about phases of life and how things that pass can transform into things that nourish the future.

Hoping I’ll catch the lawn guys when they do come, to ask them to empty the leaves and grass clippings into the chicken run compost, I remain,

Your happy, hopeful and still anxious as usual,

Ridiculouswoman

The October Rules: Midwest and Northeast US Edition

It’s been a while since I’ve issued some Rules. It was quite a habit when I first started this blog – The Middle Aged Woman Rules, The Thanksgiving Rules and even the Rules of Attraction. I have a very strong attachment to October, and I’ve noticed (ok, and even committed) some violations of rules I should have made known by now. So:

  1. Pumpkins, gourds, hay bales and cornstalks must be purchased at a FARM, with fields and tractors and at least one barn. Exceptions permitting grocery store purchases are only for those who have aged out of driving three hours each way to reach the constantly receding farmland that keeps getting swallowed up by sprawl, which is now getting drowned in climate change torrential rains that won’t quit, but they’ll quit long enough for Fall Excursion (upcoming this week) so back to the rule: Pumpkins, FARM.
  2. Lights are for Christmas. Halloween is about welcoming the DARK. Get rid of those cutesy strings of lit-up dancing skeletons or jack-o-lanterns, or those orange Christmas lights some marketer figured out how to sell you, which brings me to rule
  3. Concerning marketing, do not patronize any store that already has Christmas stuff packnig the aisles . If a store can’t muster a few turkeys and cornucopias before going all in on St. Nick, nuts to ’em. Christmas stuff goes up the DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING.
  4. Jack-o-lanterns are made out of REAL PUMPKINS that were purchased at a FARM (see rule 1). You cut out a cap for the top and scoop and scopo and carve. Bonus points for separating the seeds from the glop and roasting them.
  5. If you are an adult, and you have occasion to wear a costume (e.g., you actually got invited to a Halloween party hosted by other adults) your costume will be either scary or funny. NOT SEXY. Why does everything for adults turn into porn? Which leads me to ask, why are there no “sexy” Halloween costumes marketed to men, hmmmmmm?? Find me one. Can’t do it, canya? If you go to a costume store online and click “sexy,” does anything for men come up – oh wait I didn’t mean it that way — dammit, porn!
  6. You are permitted to eat leftover candy only after the last doorbell has tolled, but only if you were decent enough to buy the good stuff, meaning your Halloween bowl is filled with Reese’s cups, Snickers (I’m on the “fun sized acceptable” team, because that way you can eat more of them on the excuse that they’re small), Baby Ruth’s for those with eclectic tastes, and Hershey minis in all varieties. Don’t try to compete with the pro athlete or CEO down the block who passes out full-sized. They’re just showing off. But, whatever hasn’t been consumed in a guilt-ridden binge before midnight October 31 must be discarded. Vade retro.
  7. Leaves should be peeped at, then raked, not blown (I throw the flag on myself – lawn guy – but after he’s done for the season, these rules apply) or run over with a mower with mulching blades and left to nourish your yard for next year. Demonstrate virtue by using an electric mower, or better, an old-fashioned human-powered mower, which won’t mulch but will win the neighborhood nobility competition (environmental responsibility!)
  8. At least one peck of apples must be picked at an orchard. One or more HOMEMADE PIES (crust too, from scratch, no cheating) must result. If you have to buy a taffy apple, or one of those dolled-up apples coated in two inches of chocolate, at least do it at the ORCHARD’S store, not some cutesy in-town candy store. Eat the pie for dessert after the butternut squash soup you made from squash purchased at a FARM.
  9. Smore’s are to be made outdoors. Relive your scouting days.
  10. October air is “crisp,” not cold, even if you are freezing your fingers off. Suck it up. There may be a vortex or a Siberian jet stream coming your way in a few months.

There. Enjoy the harvest season, which lasts until THE DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING.

Packing for fall excursion, I remain,

Your pedantic, old-fashioned, fussbudgeting, October-loving

Ridiculouswoman

Resilience, or, Time to Turn Off the Water

“Do not go gentle into that good night,…
Rage, rage against the dying of the light…”

 – Dylan Thomas

It was 20 degrees (Farenheit) this morning. Some of the first snow still has not melted.

IMG_20181113_081959787.jpg

A few weeks ago I remembered to shut off the water to the outside faucets, and to unscrew the hoses – which I left (not neatly coiled) on the ground. The hoses might freeze but HA! the pipes won’t.

I’m the last house on the block with a lawn completely blanketed in golden leaves, because my day for the lawn guys was Friday, and Friday was the day it snowed. They’ll come this week for the last round of lawn maintenance (“Fall clean-up”) this year, and they’ll do the gutters too.

Mike used to do the gutters, and insisted on going up on top of the house even when he could barely stand up for more than 5 minutes. It’s a guy thing, I guess. Like shoveling snow. He did that too, until he nearly fainted again.

I must have been thinking about that when I was puttering around in my flannel nightgown  on this cold, (but sunny and lovely, in that low-slanty-light, late autumn way) morning, when I wandered into the downstairs bathroom, off the kitchen, to ponder the state of the peeling wallpaper.

And was stopped in my tracks by that cutesy turkey towel, and the little scarecrow-in-a-jar Mike and I bought on some long-ago fall excursion, staring at me. I got them out right after Halloween, in accordance with the Thanksgiving Rules (no Christmas decorations, or Christmas music, until the day AFTER Thanksgiving. Over the River and Through the Woods, Now Thank We All Our God, We Gather Together: GOT IT?)

Oh dear. It appears there’s a faucet I haven’t quite managed to turn off.

Tears.

Not sweet, sentimental, “aww, remember? Isn’t that cute?” tears – these were real tears, coming from sudden, unexpected burst of despair.

Oh-oh.

I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “Anne, maybe it is finally time to see someone (“see someone” being that dodgy euphemism for “get a therapist.”)”

I’m one of those people who thinks I should be able to snap out of it on my own. Figure out what’s setting me off and fix it, right? Have some backbone, clean something, paint something, get crackin’ cutting those logs in half –  you’ll need them for the fireplace soon. Feeling sick? Blue? Get your ass outdoors and go for a brisk walk.

Or, at least, head over to the fitness center and work it out.

Which I did, and I feel better. Much better.

I also figured out what hit me this morning, and why seeing that towel, and the gorgeous gold leaf-blanket all over the lawn, turned the tear-faucet on. It’s the same thing that happens every year when autumn slips away.

Not that I don’t love what’s coming next, ho, ho, hark the herald and all that, but I always feel cheated – I want more of these crisp, blue sky, golden fall days.

The best seasons are always the shortest.

That must have gotten wrapped up in my subconscious with losing Mike too soon.

He wanted to make it to October, so he could die under a bright blue October sky, but it didn’t work out that way. He died on a hot August night, almost exactly at the halfway point between the 18 and 24 months of time the oncologist had estimated he would have.

His birthday is in October, and now both he and October are gone, and the last blaze of autumn is frozen in the yard, the trees are bare and the gutters need cleaning, to keep the ice dams of winter at bay.

I pulled myself together before I came out of that bathroom, so my daughter wouldn’t see I’d been crying again, and noticed that my favorite grass in the front garden, IMG_20181113_130206.jpgwhich had been completely flattened by the wet snow, had bounced back.

It bloomed very late, the last week of October, with pretty pinkish tufts of fluff at the top.

Then, almost as quickly as it had bloomed, it dried up, but still stood there, adding structure and height where other flowering plants and shrubs had drooped or died back completely.

And there it was this morning, revived, out from under that hummock of wet, heavy snow, standing tall again. All by itself.

The lawn guys whacked it off very early last spring, when I wanted to enjoy it’s structure for longer, but it came all the way back.

Well, dammit, I thought – if the grass can do it, so can I.

I’ll enjoy that tuft of grass until it gets flattened by snow again, and then I’ll enjoy it in the spring until it gets cut back again, and I’ll delight in it when it comes back and blooms late again. World without end, amen.

That beautiful slanty-light sunshine is supposed to last through Friday, so maybe there will be a few more brisk walks before the cold and snow set in for real.

Until then, I remain,

Your spine-stiffened, spigot-stopping, about-to-embark-on-another-paint-job,

Ridiculouswoman