It’s autumn again, and some things still hurt


fall valerie column

Valerie Royzman

It’s all so wondrous and sad.

The changing of the seasons, I mean. Especially this time of the year, during the transition from summer to winter. We marvel at how the flowers lose their color and shrivel up, how everywhere smells like cinnamon, how suddenly the ground crunches under our feet.

Every year, I think about how autumn represents a fresh start, a chance to remake ourselves and shed our burdens like the trees so gracefully shed their leaves. But autumn is also the season of death, and I must be honest: That thought has been exhausting my mind these days.

I first felt it two weeks ago, as I stood in front of the closed casket of a dear friend’s mother, who had died a few days earlier. I had never met Jody, but I heard her heart was huge and she liked to feed people. I wonder what she was thinking, resting there. Was she waiting for a soft blanket of dirt to cover her? Did she want this crowd of people to go away? Was she thinking anything at all?

I felt it this week, too, when my parents’ friend in Ukraine died. His liver was sick and finally gave up on him. Mom and Dad spent a lot of time with Igor and his wife, Nadya, when they still lived there. Igor would gather a wide variety of fresh herbs and brew tea for my parents whenever they were over to share a meal. The tea was so good, Mom remembers — “and he always served it with honey. Yes, he always did.”

I’ve been meditating on the idea of how the world gives and takes from us, how death seems kind of fitting as we receive this new, brisk air. “Autumn is the hardest season,” writes poet Andrea Gibson. “The leaves are falling, and they’re falling like they’re falling in love with the ground.” Sometimes we need to let ourselves hurt. We need to honor our emotions and live with them.

This might all sound dismal, but I’ve had good days, too. Sometimes I lean back in my chair, surprised by what we humans can do. I think to myself, isn’t it strange how even after our big, beating machines fill with aches and our bodies shake in staccato to the rhythm of our breathing, we still rise? We pour ourselves a cup of coffee, brush our teeth, do the ordinary things. We cry while we do it. We pause while stirring the soup, stare at the wall, wonder if we have the spirit to finish the damn soup. We run to water with the hope that it will cleanse us. We do what it takes to keep moving. It’s pretty brave, don’t you think?

I wrote these words because I needed to hear them this week. I needed a reminder to feel it all, the joys and sorrows that come with being a person. Maybe you need to hear them, too. Maybe you need to hear that you should be more gentle with yourself. Maybe you need to be told to bite into a crisp, juicy apple and to revel in the sweetness that coats your teeth. 

This is me asking you to do that. To bake a pie, paint a picture, create something with your hands. To nourish your body with foods from the earth. To draw a bath, read a book, light a candle. To find a good tree and stand under it. To breathe. And through the transformations of the seasons and your flitting, little life, remember who you are. 

Because some days, we’re just looking for a delicate place to land.

And you will. You’ll land.

Contact her at [email protected].