Monday, June 14, 2010

Feeling Fall (11.7.08)

These last few years that I've been a mom, I've been feeling, I mean really feeling the change of seasons. Take pumpkins. I didn’t really get them before this year. I’ve always liked the pie and had fun carving jack-o-lanterns, but this season I have learned to love their simple, unadulterated form. Under a sky of burnished silver, their bright orange globes glow.

The trees look brilliant this year. I feel like I've never seen the leaves so bright. Sweeping the yellow, purple, orange and red confetti off our lawn leaves me as heady as Mardi Gras.

Did giving birth tune me into the earth's cycles or something? Perhaps the double whammy of having my second baby and turning forty in the same month made some pagen-earth-momma part of me emerge from its crispy chrysalis of ironic distance. (I didn't nibble the placenta, I swear.)

We all know how our kids' sense of wonder and fun can renew holidays that we may have been looking at with an adult's jaded eye. I feel like I've woken up to the deeply humanist logic of the crowd of holidays that take place across cultures and over the world during autumn. The cooling air and briefer days call for reflection and atonement, for lighting lights and looking within, for remembering with joy, for gathering together to celebrate and express gratitude.

Halloween seems psychically necessary after the beautiful green monotony of endless summer suddenly transforms before our eyes, seeming to burst into flames, or crumpling to desiccated brown. The holiday reminds us to laugh at our fears, to pit fun against the death that surrounds us in nature and reminds us of our own mortality. "Rail, rail, against the dying of the light," chant the cartwheeling zombies and the tap-dancing skeletons.

And now we are on our way to the day of gratitude, when the color and softness outside has all been blown away, and we retreat to the colors and warmth of the groaning table, the wine glasses, the stories and laughter of our family and friends. Darkness descends in the middle of the afternoon, the wind howls outside and we need a little Thanksgiving, right that very minute.

I remember a discussion I had in my English class with a group of juniors about Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Early in the story, 16-year-old Janie Mae Crawford has a life changing moment of awakening sexuality under a blooming fruit tree in spring. I was trying to explain how Hurston's creation of a sensuous atmosphere hinged on her setting the scene in spring, the sexiest of seasons, but the boys were more fascinated by my use of the dangerous-sounding word "fecundity." “WHAAAAAT DID YOU SAY?!” they shouted, all rowdy while I spelled and defined it on the board. But my claim that our emotional lives are tied to the yearly changes of our planet fell on some deaf ears. "Haven't you noticed how people fall in love in the spring, just when the earth is coming alive?" I asked. One of my contrarians had to disagree. "It's just weather, Ms. Fey." Ah young man, you’ll understand some day.

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