(September 2005) First day of autumn, my favorite time of the year. Our days are getting shorter. The air is getting crisper. And our grandmother trees are transitioning from busy food-making preparations into their long party season of stored sugar highs. The state fair. Apples. Rakes and leaves. And finally we leave the steamy 100° days behind. Full speed ahead to the chlorophyll—seep into those branches and turn our leaves to gold!
I like to think of those sugar-loaded winter trees as statelier versions of that annoying little addicted sister in John Waters’ film Pecker, petulantly shouting “Me want SUGAR now!!”
But we were talking about autumn, weren’t we? The mountains’ fine crispness and leaves.
Mary Oliver says she doesn’t know exactly what prayer is, but she does
know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
What do I plan to do? I plan to be outdoors—making art, making music, making love.
A pal and I have been talking about death a lot since the hurricane hit. She’s terrified of dying and says her fear interferes with her ability to enjoy life in the present tense. “Just knowing I’m going to die ruins it for me,” she says.
I’m not particularly afraid of dying, but really don’t want to die in pain.
Still, I rage against the dying of my light as much as anyone else, mourn and miss loved ones who have been dead for years, and go to the gym on a regular basis in an effort to stave off the inevitable.
And, unlike my friend, I don’t believe that there’s some benevolent being with his eye on this particular sparrow, that one day he will come scoop me up in his kind godly hand and set me down on some proverbial street of gold.
I don’t believe (or disbelieve) in previous lives either, have never once though that I might really be Cleopatra or Edna St. Vincent Millay or Sylvia Beach reincarnated.
I am, on the other hand, very fond of the notion that, since I am composed of matter and antimatter (which doesn’t disappear), then I might simply change form and continue to exist, with possible awareness.
If this is the case, then I would like to settle into the form of a Pacific NW river rock that can smell the air. I recognize that it’s just as likely that I could wind up a speck of dirt stuck under some stinkin’ cow turd in rural Texas though.
Frankly, I know that I probably won’t settle into any particular shape at all, but will instead mix with all the other dispersed beings in the universe to form some giant universal stew that, with luck, is cognizant of our universality.
And that notion doesn’t bother me much at all.