Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Strange Currents Of October

Fall is often an introspective time of year. I know I feel that way and I know that many of the people I talk with feel that way. There is something in the season - perhaps the eternal influence of the end of summer, perhaps some shift in body chemistry as we prepare for the coming winter, perhaps something cultural that is deeply ingrained.

Personally, on top of the introspection of fall, I layer a profound sense of loss on top of the month of October. October is a time frame in which I often find myself contemplating the loss and memory.

Principle among those losses was the death of my father and my grandfather separated by only a few short weeks in an October many years ago. My father died of cancer and my grandfather of a heart attack. My father was 54 and my grandfather was 84 (it was my mother's father, my father's father, my other grandfather, died when I was very young, at Christmas, also of a heart attack).

I could list other losses and incidents of loss that stacked up in the month of October, but I won't. Suffice it to say that it a time of contemplating life and death for me, both on the personal level and on the wider cultural level, with Halloween (All Souls Eve and All Saints Day).

That combination has some strange effects on me. First, it does make me emotionally sensitive to all kinds of loss. It means that sometimes, with little or no warning, with minimal triggers, I can easily spin into a deep and dark mood. At the same time a greater sensitivity to the fragility and eternity and beauty of life itself rises up in me.

It is a season of strange currents. It is a season of simplicity and beauty and grace and sadness and joy and memory. It is drawing to a close as we slip into the final week of October. I know from many years prior that I will rapidly slip out of October and slide into winter, which in California means rain and rain and a little more rain with some extra rain in case you weren't watching.

Winter is also a season of long slow rainy days spent curled up with a good book or watching a classic movie (or a new one). Winter is the season of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Winter is the season of driving to the Sierra Nevada's to see the snow. Winter is the season of going to the coast to watch the wild storms crashing into the shore. Winter is the season of a long mountain hike in rain drenched redwoods, where you reach the far point of the hike and realize you are soaking wet and have several miles to go to get back and wonder what the hell you were thinking? Winter is the season of a lazy weekend day spend sitting in a mirror staring at a painting for hours.

So, for all the strange currents of fall, for all the moods and memories of October, I love this time of year. It has a certain quiet hushed vibrancy, as if just under the currents it was thrumming with life. It seems at times I can hear the heartbeat of fall, soft, somber, and powerful. For all its moods, I love these strange currents.

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