When I was a kid there were a handful of movies that made such a deep impression, they are part of my psyche. Part of my weltanschauung (a word I remember learning in my high school psychology class-and the word that makes me believe there is no such thing as objective logic, as no mind exists in a vacuum, untouched by the influence of one's own existence- does that make me an existentialist? BUT I digress ((as most of us do when making an argument, because we are the mercy of that big word at the beginning of my sentence))). ANYWAY! One of the movies was about a family who lived in the north- I believe in Canada, and when the geese would gather on the pond to fly south for the winter, surrounded by the changing leaves of fall, the air was filled with the call of the geese. Even as a child, I felt the sadness of the end of summer, the sadness of time running out all tied up with that sound. The geese flew over our home a lot when I was a kid in Washington, and that sound is in my head this time of year.
I have always loved Fall, with the downhill slope of the year leading to my favorite family times. The fun of Halloween, the gratifying gatherings of Thanksgiving, the quiet days of Advent crowned by the magic night of Christmas Eve. And I love winter, especially now that we get to enjoy a few days of glorious snow at our cabin in the mountains. I love the fire in the wood stove, the gloves and boots and hats and coats. I love the crunch and smell and feel of snow. But there is a feeling of nostalgia that begins with the turning leaves. And that feeling gets stronger every year.
I read once that the early church decided to put Christmas in December because the northern Europeans really needed a little light in those dark days (in addition to tying it in to a holiday already in place, the Winter Solstice). It was a great idea, and for centuries people have lit candles, sung hymns, gathered together with families and friends to give each other wishes for joy in the darkest days of year.
Now that Christmas has been annexed by the retail world, we hardly get to live in the moments of the fall. Halloween is in the stores in August, Thanksgiving barely makes a showing other than free turkeys and long lines in the grocery stores. But Christmas is already on display. Do we need that extra time to buy more lights and blow-up Santas? It's early for Christmas, don't you think?
It's dark early, though. Up here in mountains, I do well to stay up until 9pm. It feels late about 8pm, and that is kind of funny. We joke up here in our little community that Valle Escondido has a 9pm curfew. Lights are pretty much out shortly after that. Except for the stars. The stars stay up all night. I know. I've seen them shining brightly at all hours of the night and early morning.
Back to the geese! Yesterday I walked our boxer girl, Lucy, down to the little lake where Josh and Nicole will be married in a few days. It was cloudy, so the lake was dark water, and there were probably a hundred ducks and many geese. They are just passing through. But they were making designs on that dark water, the ripples from their quiet paddling catching what little light there was in the sky. I sat on the edge with Lucy for a while, thinking about the coming celebration, thinking about the passing of time, thinking about the people we've lost who I wish could stand there with us and see two people we love make promises to each other. I thought about the promises Bob and I made, about how hard it can be to keep them. About how important it is to get through the tough times so that the journey is shared, the work and the grief, as well the joy and laughter, are shared. When the light gets short and the rest of our time seems sloping toward that one night when candles and quiet songs make the darkest days a time of comfort. When having someone to share the Autumn with seems like the biggest blessing in life.
For now, for today, I want to watch the leaves turn. Hear the geese, and the elk bugling in the night. For now, for today, I want to live this day. Just this one. Just this Fall day. Looks like it will be a beautiful one. The light is filling in behind the clouds and the mountain tops are dotted with the golden aspen. It is enough.