I can’t help it: autumn brings out the nostalgia in me. Something about the solemnity of nature’s visible procession from summer’s excesses into a more profound state, one clearly aware of death yet always moving through its dormancy toward the revival of spring–it all calls forth recollections of seasons past, of holidays I’ve floated through without being quite conscious of how few of those loved ones around the room and around the table will be there at the next or the next one after that . . . .
The emptying-out that comes with the end of a season is in preparation for newness yet to come . . .
But the loveliness in this is that that knowledge of what lies ahead is not only the foundation, the underpinning, of awareness at the end of the year, it is indeed the purpose of this cooling down, going to ground, this tempering of high spirits. In part, it’s what adds piquancy and sharpens the joys of the winter holidays, whatever they are in one’s culture or part of the world. For us in the northern hemisphere, the descent into winter has begun and brings with it the knowledge of our mortality–but those of us among the truly fortunate know that it’s precisely that gift that leads us to live more vividly in the present. So we sing and dance and feast and laugh a little more wildly, and it brings out the imaginative child in us all.
Thanksgiving has always been a welcome celebration to me. I come from a family that counts its riches and revels in its blessings very readily, and certainly not just on the Official date designated by the state but with perhaps renewed vigor on that day. But sixteen years ago on Thanksgiving weekend I was gifted with a particular reason for deep thanks, and so the whole festivity took on a yet more personal tone. That was when the man who would become my beloved asked me out on our first date.
You all know by now that I am not very quick on the uptake, so I’ll just say right off that I didn’t even know we were going on a date. I just thought this interesting person was being wonderfully collegial. He’d asked me to collaborate on a project at the university; we’d had a meeting or two with other colleagues to begin the planning, and I’d already started work on my part of the process and was only very dimly aware that when he’d check in on my progress his questions were less germane than personal. I was delighted to go along with the plot when he invited me to go with him on Thanksgiving weekend and have dinner and then attend a performance of the Mark Morris Dance Company’s production of ‘Dido and Aeneas‘. What’s not to like! We had a fabulous salmon dinner at a local bastion of Northwest seafood excellence and discussed, among other things, whether either of us intended to have children; you will begin to understand the true depth of my obtuseness when I tell you that I have no idea how that topic arose on a first dinner outing, let alone did I twig to it that it might indicate the dinner as something more than collegial.
So there we were, eating and chattering and–oh yes–almost being late to the performance. For which Mr. Smooth Operator had in fact prepared the pit choir. His choral group was singing along with the orchestra for the program, and I came that-close to making him late. And found out we were sitting in the front row, center, of the sort of theatre where you can not sneak in surreptitiously. I was in a mild panic. I also had no clue at the time that a conductor might prepare the singers but not conduct the performance (as in this case, where the orchestra’s conductor took the helm), so I was both worried and mystified that my companion was calmly clambering over knees right alongside me to the middle of the stage-apron row. But suddenly there was a tiny, sneaking thought that this person was intending to sit with me throughout the performance and therefore might–just possibly–not have invited me strictly out of co-worker friendliness.
Well, I’ll just cut to the chase and end your suspense. Oh, that’s right, I already told you the fairytale ending! Opaque as my love-goggles are, and slow as I am to order my facts and realize the truly obvious, once I got the hang of all of this I wasn’t particularly behindhand in taking advantage of the situation. I may be silly, but I ain’t stupid!
So I got this ethereal dance/concert date under my belt and wandered a little foggily through the Christmas holidays, dodging my fears of the unknown rather handily for such a big scaredy-cat if I do say so myself, and by the beginning of the year was engaged to build a lifetime of ridiculously happy adventure with Mr Sparkly. And I call him that not just because of our shared last name but because, dang it, he brought and brings enormous amounts of sparkle to my every day. I can’t think of anything for which a person could be more thankful, at this or any time of year.
Now, I’ve been all mushy and reminiscent on you, and I owe it to you to say that it’s entirely the fault of the season. HAH! Of course that’s pure nonsense. But I must reiterate my thesis that Fall encourages such things in me. It brings out with its chill and darkening the contrasting warmth and light of home, hearth, holidays, and hope, with all of their spices and sweetness, their inviting doorways and gates to adventure, and all of the beauty that living in a time of Thanksgiving can bring. I wish for you all the same!
Can't wait to see what newness and graces lie on the other side . . .