There always seems to be a certain moment in August when the presence of Autumn is felt, like a seed revealing itself within the ripened fruit. In some years it is a crisp smell in the morning air, or perhaps the need to pull up the extra blanket from the bottom of the bed at night. It may be the unveiling of new fall fashions in the stores or the reds and golds of harvest vegetables.
This year it was the sound of geese flying south. I heard them long before they came into view through my bedroom window. The honking was loud and it was more than a moment before I saw them flying against the cool, grayish sky. It was a large flock, more than a 100 geese I’d guess, and the flock was still disjointed as if it was just in the beginning of its formation rather than the smoothly flowing flying phalanx it would become.
The first grouping of about 25 or 30 was followed by smaller bands of 10 or 15, all flying in the same direction but not in unison – some trying to catch up, others gaining headway – but all of one purpose and that was to move southward to warmer climes.
The migration of the geese tripped a lever within me also, a desire to get up and move onward, to search out a new nesting ground for the cooler and wetter times that lie ahead, to find a dimmer, warmer den in which the activities of this year can be reflected upon and weighed in the balance of my life.
This last week I have often awoken in the middle of the night from dreams in which old friends and family, now long gone or lost in time, have peopled my mind. Old boyfriends, long-dead relatives, childhood friends have taken roles in my nighttime plays and I rehearsed my parts against theirs. Part of my consciousness seems enmeshed within these phantom dramas and once awoken it is hard to disentangle myself from their stories.
In my mind I swim backward through time, like a spawning salmon. I count off the years in memory – this was the time I was in love with him, this was the time I lived in that apartment, this was the time I took that road. Once the play is underway I cannot leave the stage and find myself for two, three hours lying in bed, eyes closed, my mind caught in the under toe of this ever-flowing stream of thought. Who is this witness of this life, or is the question, what is it that witnesses?
Backward and backward, now over sixty years of story to unwind before I can rest. Looking backward and wishing I understood then what I understand now, yet knowing those mistakes and missteps were the very ones which brought me to this day. Wanting to forgive myself for ignorance and innocence and selfishness but finding it hard, if not impossible. If God can forgive my errors, why can not I?
Autumn is the richest season, the last great cry of the year, holding a poignant goodbye kiss to what has been and will not be again. Autumn is the shedding of the past, of what is no longer needed for the journey ahead, and a preparation for the clear and clean and keen breath of winter ahead. It is the time when the future is held in seeds, when sins are forgiven and forgotten, and when geese fly south in windy skies.