Awake in Autumn

Summer is long over. The lingering days of warmth faded into an early morning chill that warned of autumn creeping over nature.

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If summer is the peak of warmth and winter the peak of cold, then autumn and spring are the transitional seasons. The tweeners. I don’t particularly like being hot because I love tea and fuzzy socks and warm blankets and cuddling in my husband’s sweat shirts. So as beautiful as summer is, with lazy warm days at the shore under sunny blue skies, it’s still not my favorite season. Since I like the cold, I’m more drawn to winter. The catch is that I’m not a huge fan of snow. I think it’s because it often dumps from the sky in such huge quantities that I become a prisoner in my own house. This strange claustrophobia makes less sense when you understand my habits. Some days I barely leave my house for writing and reading all day. I think it’s just the mental block of an outside force controlling my ability to do as I please.

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There is beauty in every season, but fall is probably my favorite. Fall is a fading from summers heat into a sigh of cool breezes. The stark beauty of green bursts forth into a myriad of color. Red, orange, yellow, and brown, with pops of purple and pink. I love when the breeze blows and the leaves flutter and dip to the ground like raindrops to cover the dying grass. It’s like the trees are knitting their foliage into a blanket to cover their toes against the coming snow.

I love walking in fall. I love the sound of dry leaves scraping and clicking as the wind sends them skipping across the pavement. I love the smells of earth which seems accentuated with the cooling temperature.

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I’ve been more awake this year to the changing seasons. There’s probably many reasons for that. Sometimes I think it’s because we moved to a more rural area. Or maybe it’s because of my husband’s job change, giving us more chance to spend time outside. I think those things help, but more than that I think it’s because I want to be awake now. The more I grow, the more I realize how much of my life I’ve spent asleep. Now my eyes are open, and I don’t want to miss a thing.

Not one color. Not one scent. Not one fallen leaf.

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© Rachel Svendsen 2015

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Among the Graves

I’ve developed a recent fascination with graveyards. As morbid as that sounds, in an odd way they’re utterly beautiful. The air today smells of grass and approaching autumn; cool and sharp with a hint of falling leaves. It’s quiet, a fact simultaneously chilling and comforting. Just the wind in the trees and the twittering of birds as they flit through the stones. Perhaps add to that the occasional click of a tiny plastic pinwheel that someone placed in the ground as decoration. Even passing cars seem softer in this valley of stone and scattered foliage.

But it’s more than just nature setting the scene. It’s sobering to wander through the dirt and dust and ashes of those who passed before you. Each life was unique and beautiful; full of joy, suffering, hope, and heartbreak. Some are new, even the earth above them is freshly turned with grass slowly peeking from the displaced dirt. Some are old, so old that they’ve become practically illegible; a life forgotten and eroded by time. Though I squat down, squint and stare, I cannot even read their names. I know nothing of them, except the little American flag makes me think they were in the Armed Forces.

Some of the gravestones are stunning; elaborately carved, tall, marbled, cut into shapes of angels, hearts, and crosses or engraved with poems and portraits of lost loved ones. There are several granite pinnacles with generations of family members carefully etched into the stone with spaces left blank for upcoming generations to join them there. I try not to step on the metal plates at my feet which mark where each one is laid.

All these stones mark a story, the impact of which cannot be guessed by the greatness of its cairn. All ashes look the same. And the cherub respectfully hovering over an intricate inscription, may be guarding nothing more than a guilty son’s attempt to memorialize his cruel Ebenezer Scrooge of a father, and the flat plate, half covered by grass clippings, could be for a nurse who loved greatly and saved many lives. I stare at the stones, longing to read their stories. I want to touch them, to run my fingers over the smooth and rough of their characters, but all I can feel is stone. I find a tree and sit down. I want to tell them I care. I’ll listen. But they remain silent, so I respectfully join them, lingering with them in that silence, the only breathing member of hundreds, dreaming about their stories, with my own story still to live and still to tell.

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© Rachel Svendsen 2015