all around, a burrowing in…
the shadows crossed the line this week. the equatorial line that cinches the earth’s belly at the waist. those of us on the upside of that line, we’re in shadow now. minute by minute, inch by inch, we’re tipping away from the sunlight, into the deepening, lengthening shadow.
it’s autumn, season of molasses light. season of hauling out the sweaters, putting seed back into the feeders, hauling out cook pots we’ve not seen maybe in months. it’s the season when deep-down parts of me come humming back to attention. everything about it — the scents, the slant of light, the goosebumps of early morning — seems to me a call to begin the in-burrowing.
i was home alone all week so autumn’s call had little distraction. i did as instructed: sifted through the bins of bulbs, cut back the ramshackle runaway garden, plucked the last of the bright orange tomatoes off the vine (it’s a game of where’s waldo, really, rummaging through the tangled vines in search of the ones so certainly orange, i know their time has come). inside, in the kitchen where i ply my alchemies and my otherworldly ministrations, i glugged olive oil, chopped fennel, carmelized onions. i invented things to do with figs.
today i amble to the airport, to fly back to the corner of the jersey shore, tucked between a pond and a river, where my husband is sifting through the decades of his family’s home, the 19th-century house where untold stories are being resurrected every day: a wedding album never seen (not by me or my husband, anyway), a dashiki worn on a south american concert tour, a baseball bat commemorating willie mays’ 600th home run. i am eager to be alone in the house of the woman i am very much missing, while my husband is out attending to the thousands of things on a list when you are closing a chapter of lives fully lived.
my job is to sift through her kitchen, to pull from the shelf the mug she always shared with her husband of sixty years, each one taking a sip of the morning’s coffee, passing the mug back and forth across the maple table, all to the quiet tune of news pages turning. the sort of sacramental moments that unfurl across the span of a lifetime, of a marriage of decades. i will sift, too, through her cookbooks, the ones i hardly think she ever cracked, for cooking to her — a woman who came of age as the feminism of the 1960s was tearing down the eastern seaboard — was pure distraction, and dinner was apt to be a thawed-out Tastee burger (bun and all tossed in the freezer after a run through the drive-in, especially if selling on discount, and i’m told the pickle never really warmed in the toaster oven that served as her main kitchen appliance). i hear there’s a Settlement Cook Book, circa midcentury, i’ll add to my jewish cookery shelf. i’ve reason to believe it will be in pristine condition, not a single splatter of schmaltz (unlike the one already on my shelf; one given to me when i married my jewish beau). there will be pangs that hurt, and moments that make us laugh till we cry. and moments, too, that do both.
all of it — the days home alone, really alone, and the somber-toned trip to new jersey, where a for-sale sign is now staked in the yard — has drawn me deep down more swiftly than in most autumns. i’m finding i need to work a little harder, tread more vigorously, to keep from going under, into the darker shades of the shadow. once again, there’s little to distract me. so i’m listening to the wisdom of the season. i’m surrendering to the call to burrow in, to put the garden to bed, to stock the cellar for winter. to batten the hatches, throw a thicker blanket onto the bed. to not get in the way of the work of the lengthening shadows.
how do you respond to the shadows of autumn?
Ah, peace be upon you and B as you sift. Such a sacred time. Praying…❤️🩹
Tender, giant, deep and heartfelt hug. Xox
A sacred time, a time for stories, a time for unearthing the familiar and new discoveries. So good for you to be by his side as he conducts what I call an “archeological dig.” Here’s to tears and laughter and remembering and…life.
I ask “what shadows of autumn?” I tend to see and rejoice in the rich and vivid explosion of colors of leaves, deep purples and bright golds of asters and goldenrod, clear blue skies, and a cool crispness to the morning air. (I am an autumn girl.)
yes, yes, i revel too. but as autumn turns toward the solstice, the shadows get longer and longer. speaking astronomically, but also i feel the melancholy backbeat of the exuberant color. it’s always a swirl…..
Barbie, thinking of you and Blair as you sort through things in New Jersey! I love hearing your stories about his mom and dad! Sending love! xx
Sent from my iPhone
❤ ❤ !!!!
Blessings on the endings and beginnings sacred time for you and BK!
Autumn invites me to Barbara Mahany’s Slowing Time classic. I savor the readings ever new and the notes I’ve written in the margins suggesting autumnal spiritual practices.
Love and gratitude!!
your words soothe me as i head off to the airport. my adventure in solo travel begins. xox
bless your always always kindness…..
I’m here beside you in this tender time… Sending heartfelt hugs to you and Blair~ ❤ xoxoxo
Barbie, my favorite season of the year has always been autumn! Particularly when the weather is cool and dry, because that’s when the trees and shrubs produce their most vibrant colors. The brisk autumn air always puts a spring in my step; I love going for long walks through forest preserves with all of the discarded leaves crunching beneath my feet. And I love the smell of burning leaves, the ones that we’ve spent the day raking up for the kids to jump in before they’re transformed into ash. You’ll probably see the colors begin to change on the Jersey Shore well before we see them in the Midwest. Speaking of which, my husband and I experienced the same task that you’re facing when we lost my mother-in-law a year or so ago. It will most certainly be a labor of love (heavy on the labor) for you to comb through her home and uncover all of her personal belongings. It was quite a challenge for me to decide what to keep, donate or get rid of. (When we’d finished, I promptly went through my own home and got rid of all the things that I no longer used, no longer wore and/or no longer cared for my family to find!) I hope that things go well for you out east, and I pray that the weeks ahead of you are filled with many warm and cozy autumn blessings. Maybe we can meet for a cup of coffee before I leave for Florida?
P. S. Your caramelized onion and fig confit sounds soooo delicious!
Dear beautiful kathy,
I lay awake last night thinking how I am going to go home and start clearing out every last thing we’ve stored over the decades, “ just in case”! Those cases never come and the piles now are taunting me. It is all a swirling mix of tears and tenderness here. And lots of labor. My job, the kitchen, means I could wrap with my eyes closed by now. I love this part of the world so very much, and tiday I say goodbye to the view overlooking the pond. This old house is where blair’s mom first declared she was unabashedly in my corner. How blessed was I. And my reverent job is to love her son the way I would wish for my sons to be loved. ( this unedited blurb of thought is what blurts out after a long night of not sleeping.) ❤️❤️