Tonight, after I ride bikes with my daughter, after my son says something snarky about how my music isn't as cool as I think it is, and after I've finished the hunt for my work boots, I'll get in the car and drive to the mountains. I grew up in a small town where this time of year always evokes powerful memories. My mom died in the dog days of 1985, and ever since, autumn is haunted by her absence--an absence only good friends can start to fill. The cool air and the slight turning of leaves' color have a way of stirring something in my soul created by loss but evolving every year in new ways, not always sad ways. The cool air and the slight turning of leaves's color brings on memory, maybe because they touch the senses, all five of them for sure.
i'll only go up till Saturday, but two days will be enough to startle it. This time last year, my dad was weak. He was embarrassed by that. He was always a larger than life character in my life, both in happy and sad ways. My dad grieved his strength a year ago and I watched it. He needed me and my brother. And we needed, too. We needed him, each other, the cool air, others who knew and who understood, and we were weak, too.
I think my weakness hurt me. Yet, there was an odd kind of joy brought on by cool breezes and the smell of fallen leaves. There was a joy that I know and can't forget, won't forget. But it is so strong when the leaves change color. My brother and I were close, though so very different. This year, though, the year has passed and the fall brings a sense of loss and longing in that knowing ...
It was fall when my mother went through her first round of chemotherapy and radiation. It was fall when I paid attention to her absence. It was fall when I first dwelt on the Beatles' Abbey Road. It was fall when a bluegrass mandolin player named Sam Bush first made me see joy in a wordless song. It was fall when my dad died. It was fall when I first found myself an orphan and terrified at it.
When I go home tonight, I'll curl up on the couch with my dog and a book, maybe my guitar if I can face the insufficiencies of my talent, and I'll be. I'll be. Maybe that's what I've always needed--permission to be and to know that I deserve to be.