Saturday, August 27, 2011

It's Fall. In August?

Seems that I made it to Fairbanks just in time for fall: crisp air laden with the scent of wood burning stoves, warm days but an extra blanket required at night, and leaves turning scarlet and gold. Surely one of my favorite times of year. But in August?

Last week I flew to Juneau and the pilot cheerily remarked, "We're starting to feel that fall weather!" It was August 16th. 
 Glimpses of gold among the green.

No sense in fighting it, I suppose. Like so many things in life, it's gonna be what it's gonna be. And as the Buddhists say, it's in our resistance to what is, that causes our suffering.

Seasonal changes have always been a cause of unrest for me. On one hand the familiarity of moving in and out of the seasons is comforting: they happen at the same time, in sequential order and I know exactly what to expect. Yet I can never help but reflect on what I was doing and feeling the previous year at the same time. If things were good, I lament not having that goodness now. If things weren't good, it's difficult not to be fearful of feeling bad again. 

The memories associated with a season seem more indelibly marked on my person than merely looking at a calendar and remembering.  Fall days, when dusk falls at 5 and the wind blows through my fleece, I remember the tightness in my chest, my stomach turning to lead, as I listened to him call another girl "babe" on the phone. I stood in his driveway holding a 3 foot tall LED Santa in my arms, my cheeks stinging from the wind and embarrassment. My feet were chilled from having stood for too long on his damp lawn. The scent of laundry sheets wafted out from the dryer exhaust while the hum of the dryer mixed with the freeway noise in the background. No number on a calendar can evoke that memory with such precision.

It's not only unpleasant memories that are crystallized in my mind and body. The smell of musty concrete brings to full consciousness the contentment I felt watching that same man disassemble a brass pump in his garage. Each of us wearing headphones to block the noise of the band saw. I periodically had to jump up and down in front of the garage motion detector to turn the lights back on after they had timed out. Each time I jumped my 501s slipped precariously down my hips because I had forgotten my belt. My hand was damp from the condensation on the cold beer bottle. Freshly laundered sheets evoke tenderness when I remember him gently covering my eyes with a pillow to block the light coming from the bathroom. He had to get up at dark o'clock and hadn't wanted to wake me.

We try to mark time in such a linear, concrete way -- each day and hour being equal in the space it occupies. Time seems more malleable to me, though. Ask anyone who has been in a car accident, or sat with a sick child, and they'll tell you how time slowed and ten seconds on the clock was experienced as ten minutes. Even elite athletes like Michael Jordan speak of time slowing down at critical moments during a game. The mundane parts of daily life seem to fill less space on our timelines while other events hold proportionately more space. I often think of the lady who, last February, told me she'd lived in Fairbanks for 10 winters. Not ten years, ten winters. Apparently for her winter has a proportionately bigger slot on her timeline than other parts of the year. And rightly so. It's the winters that have left their mark on her and the framework from which she references other parts of her life. I wonder in 10 years what I'll say has left its mark on me.

If fall is here in August, then so be it. I give in and embrace what is (and refuse to think about what this means for winter's looming timeline!)

I'm looking forward to the bonfire this weekend where I will happily be in the moment enjoying friends, beer and that delectable scent of burning wood.

Welcome, fall. Welcome.

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