It’s the last week of September and as I sit here on the porch, feeling kind of sad to say goodbye to summer, I am just idly watching the day unfold.
A yellow leaf falls from the maple tree that sits on the boulevard in front of our home, and I watch it undulate in the sky. The leaf switches from free-falling to undulating as the wind takes a gasp and the leaf hovers in the air, then she dances to and fro, upside down and then sideways – showing off to her audience of one. But eventually her second chance at life in the air dies and her fall to the ground is quick. But life isn’t over yet for the yellow leaf as the wind takes pity on her and lifts her away. I lose track of her when she is air-lifted to another street.
Ah, endings. They are bittersweet, yes?
My melancholy mood intrigues me as I am an autumn girl, through and through. Autumn brings me many gifts – my favourite colours: sienna reds and coppers, burnished bronzes, ochre yellows and golds; and later, naked November trees. The scents and aromas of the season, and the crisp night air, dusk and sunset earlier each day – each make me pause, while cool nights refresh our bedrooms, perfect for long, restful sleeps.
This summer has been one of doing nothing. Absolutely. Doing. Nothing.
I did not write; I rarely practiced my yoga or Tai Chi; I hardly lifted a drawing pencil or pen. My watercolours are in the cupboard. Two fresh tubes of paint that I purchased in June are still unopened, never squeezed.
And yet my summer months have been packed full. Not one day wasted. Not one.
We have laughed with family as we sat outdoors, drinking our coffee early in the morning, and later those same days, we have laughed as we sat around the outdoor dining table, chowing down on never-ending menus of salads, grilled vegetables and fish. We’ve sat silently (the laughter dying down) as we watched the fireflies that were abundant this summer. What is it about fireflies that can still a group of adults within seconds? Is it the magic that we witness on a warm summer’s eve?
I have witnessed each sunrise throughout the entire summer, and I have sat on the beach with my son and his beloved, and with my sister on other occasions, to honour the day’s sunset. More magic.
We have walked nearly every day along the river and counted red-winged blackbirds, monarchs, lake freighters, sailboats, the occasional Great Blue Heron, mute swans, and other web-footed visitors, while our ears were tuned to raucous squawks of gulls that break the occasional pause of stillness. All gifts.
My days are counted, not by T. S. Eliot’s teaspoons, but by well-worked areas in my garden – the Viburnum section (B area) has been cleaned of undergrowth during the early part of summer. Since birds (and their nests) are of highest priority, the Viburnum has been clipped sparingly, in spite of my neighbour’s complaints. I’m sorry, but I cannot trim that branch as birds live in that annex. Have a heart, please.
Garden area A (otherwise known as Clyde’s area) has been stripped of overgrown and spindly plants that were just exhausted. Too many years of neglect. Or to put it heartlessly, the plants are just too old. Rip ‘em out like there’s no tomorrow. Garden area A accounted for the entire month of June’s labour. No, the garden isn’t large; in fact, it’s rather small. I just worked slowly, with full enjoyment. I sat for long stretches of time just staring at the garden and making plans. Should I rip out that clump of lilies that has encroached on Clyde’s rock? Who is Clyde, you ask? Well, he is a turtle made of stones and cement. And he rocks in my garden. When winter approaches Clyde will move into the kitchen and sit on the counter. Or on the floor. Who knows? Clyde will decide where.
Throughout August I spent my days pulling out ajuga and sedums which I love and, therefore, I am much too lenient with them. I’ve allowed them to wander throughout the pebble stone pathways, and once in a blue moon my husband waves the white flag on the path to the back of the shed where he stores the garbage bins. It’s a jungle back there, he whines. So August has been clearing month, too.
And throughout the summer days that are filled with such promises of lush growth, verdant gardens, blue skies and star-filled nights, I squeezed in my days at the long-term care home where I volunteer.
Long-term care homes never take a break – the seasons don’t seem to change there. Every Wednesday afternoon, bingo is called, and my “reading club” is still pencilled in the calendar on Fridays at two. My residents (I call them my peeps to their face which delights them!) still wait for me to knock on their doors, and stay awhile for a long afternoon chat.
My days have been full.
The residents have taught me that lesson: that fullness or abundance is in the eye of the beholder. A gift is only a gift if you recognize and accept that it is a gift.
And since the aging and the dying have taught me that endings are inevitable – all is impermanent – my awareness of this matters, now more than ever. Life is fragile and fleeting. Handle with attention.
Summers. Gifts filled with abundance.
Now I sink into autumn. More gifts on the horizon. My melancholy mood has lifted.