all her empire’s falling down


Autumn here is strange, and about as unseasonable as my grief. The urge to wrap myself in wool is strong. As is the urge for hot broth and baking pans and roasted roots. The weather simply won’t cooperate. It’s warm.

Not accustomed to the thirty-degree temperature differential, dawn to dusk, I bundled up last week, thinking: Now. Here. This. But I was nearly laughed back north to New York City (here, you call the place by its full name) as my boss informed my coworker, “This child is not ready for the south.” And there I was, stifling in my layers as the day veered tropical.

Yesterday was Sunday, chill and grey and damp; today we’re back to warm again. The trees are thinning, very slowly. Green leaves turn to yellow one by one, and linger before falling. They are not prepared for hibernation. Meanwhile, I’ve gone prematurely numb.

Evenings in the kitchen, the stove heats our tiny house too close for comfort. I stand before it thinking—usually this helps. But, these days, ‘usually’ eludes me. Feeling too. I’ve found composure, and it’s a cool dark place in the relentless sunshine south. I emerge blinking or I do not emerge at all. This is my own private autumn. I am waiting for the frost.

Autumn, see, I understand. Melancholy is a dear old friend who visits each October bearing manageable sadnesses and cider donuts. This year, all rhythm eludes me. Still I fill our home with spices, squash. I concentrate on one small, senseless loss instead of other, greater losses—a notebook full of letters to my mother, written since her death, and gone. I try to use the season to this selfish end. To remind myself that, sooner or later, winter winds will come and everything will blow away. I try to unremind myself of her.

But my mother hated autumn. She lived in ceaseless summer, a place I didn’t understand. Her world was full of pink and painted toes in rhinestone sandals. She wore white long after Labor Day. She hated the cold.

And she is everywhere. I drink in the normal autumn smells of far-off fireplace and fallen leaf. But the sun is stubborn, even in the evening, and there is this other smell, the soil smell of things still growing. I shed a layer and expose my skin. Eager as I am to freeze, maybe I should welcome this strange season and its wild thunderstorms of warm.


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