Everything is happening with reassuring predictability.
The house finches have staged a coup at our bird feeders, numbers swelling after the exotic summer vacationers have fled. Frost sneaks around the garden like a bandit in the night, though the October stalwarts – beets, carrots, kale – seem impervious. And, Dan is a blur of hunting-season comings and goings. (He recently left me with a half-eaten bag of chocolate-covered espresso beans, which is the exact right drug for solo-parenting).
A decade of similar October memories are lodged in my cells, released under the precise conditions of temporarily fatherless children seeking a street soccer partner while I press tomatoes through the assembly line of roasted sauce. Outside, it’s cold and then warm and then cold again, daily.
And yet, I am always blindsided by the holy melancholy of fall, the way walking through the orange glow of aspens fills me with both awe and grief. I don’t know, maybe it’s the heartbreaking truth of impermanence. Every day something succumbs.
The kids are on a quest for novelty, for the twinned, intoxicating emotions of excitement and anticipation to course through the circulatory system of their lives. “What’s next?” one of them is asking, hope beaming from clear eyes. “What are we doing now?”
They’re completely uninterested in the words of Zen teacher Jiryu Rutschman-Byler, who says that everything we are waiting for (a vacation, the weekend, the new fill-in-the-blank) will necessarily pass, or no longer be new; this is the nature of all things, people, experiences. Such depressing news for a 10- and 12-year-old. The only solace may be learning to tune into the present moment, which we will never have to wait for.
There is a bizarre trend on YouTube where kids film themselves “unboxing” new toys: Lego sets, Nerf guns, Pokémon packs. Yes, unboxing is a verb, and the thrill is tied up in the collective gasp of anticipation just before the moment of reveal. If I suggested to my children that the present moment was a box to open, renewed every second, they would groan.
And yet, Dan and I are as habitual as a pair of old cats. On personality tests, we score embarrassingly low on novelty-seeking behavior. We’ve purchased two cars together in the past 22 years and still have them both. For us, Utah counts as exotic travel, and while we may not see much of this planet, we love seeing deeply into the places we visit repeatedly.
Which may explain a lot, including why when I read this passage at the end of Charlotte’s Web to the kids recently, it brought tears to my eyes, tears of recognition and gratitude:
“Life in the barn was very good – night and day, winter and summer, spring and fall, dull days and bright days. It was the best place to be, thought Wilbur, this warm, delicious cellar, with the garrulous geese, the changing seasons, the heat of the sun, the passage of swallows, the nearness of rats, the sameness of sheep, the love of spiders, the smell of manure, the glory of everything.”
I feel similarly. It is very good here, in the barn of our lives. Through seasons and gardens and the buying of birdseed in bulk. Through the nearness of foster dogs, with the garrulous children, the sameness of elk meat in the freezer, the love of the San Juan Mountains in their ever-changing garments, the glory of everything.
Reach Rachel Turiel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.