This post is comprised of journal entries from the month of October, times when I forced myself to just sit down (sometimes outside, sometimes in) and write about what was going on in the moment.
I’ve just finished wiping off the jars of applesauce that I canned this morning. Late afternoon sunlight shines through the leaves, creating dancing shadows thanks to a brisk wind. We spent the afternoon at a local ski area, riding the chair lift to the top and meandering slowly down. Eva stopped several times to pick wild flowers and bright leaves from the ground. It’s not peak autumn color yet, but some trees are already blazing red and orange. I like this time of year, despite feelings of busyness due to yard and garden work, the quest to acquire enough firewood, and winterizing things. Squashes are ripe, and there are still green vegetables to enjoy straight from the earth. It may freeze next week, so it’s been a time of roasting, freezing, and baking to preserve the harvest. It’s a time of abundance even though time can feel scarce. I inhale and keep working.
The first snow of the autumn is here, just a dusting that’s melting as the evening air grows just warm enough. Wind whips my hair around my face when I venture outside for a few minutes, and the fully yellowed maples are quickly losing leaves. Everything is damp and a little droopy, but the freeze hasn’t yet come. Peppers and tomatoes are still fruiting, and some have new blossoms, even this late in the season. They’re hanging on despite the fact they won’t reach maturity. Back inside the internet is down. This is a welcome, if not wanted, respite from too much virtual connection. An empty muffin tin waits on the counter for squash batter, and newly placed Halloween decorations tell stories of seasons past and celebrations yet to come. The outside air and sky are flat and gray, but tiny water droplets dot fallen leaves on the lawn, each one a world in itself, a world of cyclical light, a world of transition and turning.
Brilliant light bounces off of gold foliage, reminding me that autumnal evening paddling is nothing short of astonishing. I can see my breath as the air cools. The sun dips behind the trees as I paddle back toward the dock. In the shallows I see an enormous snapping turtle just under the surface of the water, near some decomposing lily pads. She swims right under the canoe, and I am glad to be in a boat. Her presence reminds me of all the life that exists outside my window, outside my screens, outside my human-focused agenda. She makes me want to be a better human, a better neighbor, a better planetary neighbor, a better ancestor. She is part of my body, and she deserves a chance to thrive in clean waters, undisturbed.
I think about climate disruption and colonization and how badly humans still treat one another and the planet. I think about the people who lived where I do now, hundreds of years ago, before this area was colonized. Who were they? What did they dream of and celebrate? How can I honor their memory in a respectful way? What is my role in reparations toward the marginalized groups of people who are alive now? How do I best show up in daily life as an anti-racist, as a person who accepts where and when I entered the collective story? How do I move in wider circles?
There are no clear, easy answers to these questions. Yet it remains important to ask them. And ask them again and again until a way forward is carved from the persistent effort to change the dominant cultural narrative for good. My ancestors came from a land across the sea, and land I have never seen. But I live here, now, on land where Dakota people lived for thousands of years until Europeans settlers colonized it, land to which I have connection to, even with its complicated history. So I will keep asking the questions and listening to the answers that may well be discerned from very different actions: Paying attention to the pause between gusts of autumn wind. Scouring the historical society and library for lesser known details of the area. Seeking out and listening to stories and myths from others, maybe even the story of an elderly snapping turtle, existing and persisting all these years as time churns on.
I am in the garden, hauling a bale of hay to mulch the garlic that was just planted. I look up at the sound of flapping to see eight sandhill cranes soaring west to land in the field across the road. At 38 degrees, the air is cooler than it has been in months. Even though I’m not yet used to the cold temperatures, I’m glad for them. Planting the garlic always seems to signal a downshift from bustling autumn to early winter stillness. Most of the leaves have now fallen. Trees stand bare against a gray sky. Leaves that linger catch attention with flashes of burnt umber or gold in a long line of naked branches. Summer this year went by quickly, and it’s hard to believe it’s time to change the routine from hoeing and harvesting to hauling wood and shoveling snow. But change comes, and we adapt.
The house is quiet, except for the crackle of fire and the soft sounds of folk music coming from the speakers. Flames reach toward the ceiling of the wood stove. Music expands into the empty spaces of the room. The house is cradled in darkness this late in the day. A car goes by outside, a dull hum barely discernible. What seems to matter is that in the foreground, that which is close at hand, within easy earshot or tangible distance. Things far away still matter, but in a different way (not more and not less) than what is happening right here, right now. I wonder if paying attention could be one way to make the circle wider. Flames continue to reach, and music continues to fill the empty spaces. The cats stretch out next to the hearth, content to simply sit still in the glowing warmth of the fire. Another log goes on. Flames lick higher and warmth reaches further. Days shorten. Nights lengthen. Time catches up to abundance and I exhale.