Reaching Back and Leaning Forward


Every fall I write about the ‘yearning’ I experience in September. Here’s this year’s ramble.

I sit in the backyard listening to crickets while cosmos gently sway in the wind, sometimes becoming weighed down by bees nosing the scrumptious center. The light and long shadows of September are here and with them comes nostalgia, a sense of all that has passed and all that is to come; a tender and heartbreaking joy.

The shadows are longer and the contrast stronger, and the lawn I just mowed smells green and grassy and brings memories of football on a television and my favorite flannel shirt. I am pulled backwards in time. I might be looking at our wildflowers, but I am not there.

I am walking across the street from my old home in New England and the maple trees that line the field are red and capture diamonds from the sun. Crisp, sharp air fills my lungs and lures me to eat apples and chop onions for chili as summer fades from view. Or it is August and my final summer in Waterville Valley and I am driving on Route 49 listening to the Indigo Girls and singing Get out the Map at the top of my lungs with the windows open wide or I am a child kicking through the leaves walking to school in new shoes from Tom Mcan.

Summer leaves, but she bears riches in her arms with the gift of Fall.

I am cast both into the future, sensing the longer shadows of my own days and the movement of time and also into the past, a past that comes to life every September. I am a young mother who swaddled her newborn baby and left her to nap outdoors in her carriage on a fall day so she could rake the leaves or a grown woman with her camera snapping pictures on drizzly day trying to capture the impossible beauty of Autumn trees, red, yellow, green, brown bark. I am alive.

Leaning into the future, I see treasured moments. I can almost measure time or feel it’s passing, like the way wind passes through me on a mountain summit. One daughter is married and has moved into her first home with her new husband and another is embarking on a longed-for adventure with her first apartment in the city.

They are moving through their lives and weaving a future and I cannot separate my great grandmother, grandmothers, mother and all my aunts, nor myself, from the steps they take. We hold hands, somehow we hold hands. I sense the time when I will not be a part of their physical world, but we will still hold hands. Some divides are impossible to cross, but the past runs in our veins and merges then with now. It always has. It always will. My words will linger in their ears forever just as I can still hear my grandmother’s voice whispering “Live your life, Rob, live your life.”

Melancholoy. Yearning to return to the woods of Waterville Valley to breathe New England fall air while wrapped in wool, returning home with a cold red nose and a peaceful soul.

Reaching back and leaning forward.

Fall is the consummate contradiction. I long for the past and feel peace in the present.

The length of the shadows is an embrace from something I cannot name, but that feels like the soul of everyone and everything that has come before me. Early evening sunlight reaches for me and I close my eyes, enraptured, and I feel all the moments, I see my entire life. I understand in a way I could not when young that this moment, the one I am in right now, will pass all too soon, never to pass again, and I know it is the simple ones I’ll wish I could reach back to.

Moments like watching my husband sleep. I touch the space on his forehead where his hair meets skin and I am so in the present, so aware of all the scars and barriers that could have kept us apart and yet did not. Knowing we are on the greatest adventure of our lives as we age together.

Reaching back and leaning forward. I am alive.

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