I originally wrote this in October, 2011 as a guest post on my friend Terri Long’s blog. It reveals things I love and countless moments I’ve allowed to slip by. I had to share it here!
Autumn is quickly making its way again to the Southern California mountains. Those familiar with this place are already admiring the changing light and the crisp, cool night air. The leaves have not begun to turn, but the apples and pears are ripe and delicious, mine sweeter and more dear to me every year I have the good fortune to tend the trees. Soon I’ll be making homemade soup and cornbread and writing by the fire on Sunday afternoons.
Life changes, and, just as summer creeps into fall, one chapter pours into the next with such a gentle flow we barely notice the movement. While winter is typically a time to wait and let things gel and spring the time for action, October is somehow a thoughtful time for me. This is thinking season.
I’ve written myself a note to call the woodcutters to come split the oak they felled three years ago; I’ll need fuel for the woodstove in November. The dead tree was still upright, its limbs pocked with woodpecker holes and a danger to the roof in high wind. When the heavy branches fell, a coven of huge bats flew out in a whoosh, like a hundred silent Hogwarts children dressed in black and rushing into the hall with the final bell. My vampire-writing friends envied my first-hand witness to their flight. I was simply sad about the lost shade, and turning the creatures out of their cozy home.
I’ve written before about having few regrets (I’ll count the bats as one). Another real disappointment is not having understood the deep value of simply noticing as one month scuttled into the next. As youngsters, my friends and I celebrated first at college parties, then weddings. Later, we caught up at baptisms, then their own children’s nuptials. Now, we only meet face-to-face at our parent’s funeral services. My mother and father grow more fragile day by day, and inevitably our turn will come.
I so wish I’d been better about chronicling important passages, recording what I thought and what I learned through the years. Only in brief moments do I really feel I get it right. I will myself to take a breath, to stop and see what is happening around me. I want to feel the joy and the sadness. Even loss holds an important place as a gateway to hope, and whatever we decide to create out of its sorrowful hold. The hard, unexpected right hand turns we’re dealt have hidden benefits, if we look – and decide to make it so.
I observe my friends enjoying vastly different stages of their family’s lives. Some have children in grade school. Another’s youngest is a high school senior. One is enjoying retirement and a newly empty nest, and yet another welcomes grandchildren into her family and the world. And all the moving! New houses, even homes in brand new states – they’re experiencing it all.
My dream is that we find the time to capture every lovely, singular day or accomplishment. Every goal achieved. My deepest wish is that although we’re all involved in countless activities that constantly claim our attention, we urge our busy selves to be aware and grateful for the gifts around us and the people we love. Let’s allow the places we visit and the feelings they evoke to touch us enough to leave a tiny mark. A reminder.
Change is the only constant, and some we undertake are difficult. Others are especially poignant. Not one moment can be relived in anything but a memory. We can’t stop time. We can’t freeze any experience to savor later on, regardless of the importance it may hold. Our only recourse is to be aware, and try to turn every day into our personal thinking season. We can savor what we have before it passes, before moving on to the next challenge. Somehow, I think this is the key to really having lived.
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