In one day the air changed. Every spring, every fall, there is a moment when I notice the change, and a week ago, last Saturday was it. I was walking home in the evening and as I went past the park, a gust of wind carried the sweet smell of damp leaves over the gate and into the dark night. The next day, when I was out and about, almost everyone had a jacket, and when I came home, I put our summer clothes away and brought out our winter things.
I love the summer, and I love the fall. I love hats and gloves and soup for dinner at the end of a crisp, cool day. I love the chill of autumn air in the morning and the crunch of the leaves on the sidewalk and grass.
As life slows down in anticipation of the cold that will soon be here, there is so much to look forward to. My trees, I see, are thinning out and turning brown, but I am curious to watch how long it takes, the ways in which they change and how they stay the same. At the end of this month the boys and I are taking a long-anticipated short trip to Paris, and in exactly two months we leave for Arizona. The other night, Three was tired and asked if I would put him to bed at seven thirty (!!!). Seven and I stayed up reading on the couch; for the first time he had his book and I had mine, and it was just about the most perfect way to spend a quiet fall evening at home. I have a feeling this winter will be different than all the ones before.
Last winter was long and cold and I let it strip me bare. I just sort of fell into it, or crawled inside myself to hibernate. All winter long the boys would ask, “Why are you sad?” and I would say, “I seem sad to you?” and they would stare back at me and not know what to say. It was disheartening because I thought I was doing such a good job of hiding it.
One day, after we’d been playing around with the camera, Seven saw me staring out the window again, and he said, “Don’t move.” Then he took this picture of me. It was the end of winter – he was Six then – spring hadn’t come quite yet. He showed it to me and I guess it was his answer to my question.
Now I look at the picture and it is like looking back at a picture of my trees around the same time, with the branches bare. When you see a tree with outstretched, empty branches, you know that spring will eventually come: tiny green buds will appear and the tree will fill out in a flourish, in a matter of days, but not until the time is right, until the sun is warm enough, until the tree is ready to come out of hibernation. And when it does, it is the same tree with the same trunk and the same branches and the very same roots, and yet it is so different.
Every season ends. Before long, my trees will have lost their leaves again, and will be bare.
This winter there is so much to look forward to, there is, there is, and I know this winter will be different, but still I’m afraid of falling back into the bleakness that was last year. The trick will be finding how to embrace the long, cold winter, how to let the leaves fall and still find joy and beauty and necessity in the stillness and reflection that winter imposes.