Sunday, November 13, 2011
No Indian Summer this year after a summer that was barely summer. One of the shortest autumns I can remember. November has become everything that makes winter so hard to bear here: cold, gray and bone-gnawing damp. Days begin in darkness, and fade all too quickly back into deeper darkness, with more than a month before the light begins to assert itself again.
So much in my life to be grateful for. A long list easily accessed and appreciated. Called upon as a shield against winters: the season coming and the year just ending.
Like the black depths of tidal waters, winter threatens to pull me under. It's only November. The month of my birth. This year a significant transition in more ways than the new decade might account for. Usually I enter winter saturated with the warmth and light of the previous year, enough to get me close to spring when I can feel new light beckon.
Not this year. I'm tired. And cold. And try as I might, the shield refuses to hold.
I've read about anniversaries, held friends through theirs, prayed for comfort for survivors facing the end of the first year without loved ones. This is my first. Like so many of life's biggest events, there is no preparing for or even describing what it feels like.
Kathleen's death date is a bit more than a month away, yet every day now it's as though I just heard the news for the first time.
The night of my birthday celebration, my SIL, the one whose son took his life two weeks after my daughter took hers, gave me a book. Privately, out of the glare of the family gaiety. A memoir written by a women about her sister's suicide. While it might seem to be an inappropriate birthday present, it was my favorite. Both because it was the first real acknowledgment she's made of our shared loss, and because she knew exactly what that book would mean to me.
With the early onset of winter weather, most of the leaves which light the darkness of November have fallen prematurely. For days last week the wind whipped foliage from trees in blizzards of dying color. Yet there remains in our yard a maple in full flame. It's been aglow for more than a week and continues to pulse red through the fog that clings to everything from sunup to sundown.
At first I looked at it, admired it, then turned away, certain it's beauty would be stripped away as quickly as it has been for every other tree in our yard. But it continued to beckon from the edge of the yard until it pulled me outside with my camera. I tried to resist. I have lots of pictures of more fall beauty than this year could ever hope to offer. But I found myself drawn, in bathrobe and rubber boots, hair spiky from sleep, into the cold morning mists.
I'd moved around to shoot the tree from its most symmetrical angle, still not sure what I was looking for, or what it was offering. Then I realized it wasn't just the fiery maple I needed to see. It was the maple behind her sister, already stripped bare for the winter, and in front of the sequoia, which will never be anything but lush and green and strong.
The layers are a perfect metaphor for my life right now. Seeing everything through the filter of death, the light of dying flaring brighter than ever in the time left, the constant shape and color of life that doesn't die. No one more true or more real than the other, all existing together in a tableau that offers comfort. Not warm quilt, hot cocoa, warm fire comfort. But a small, significant flame of comfort, like a pilot light - enough I believe to hold me through the winter ahead.