Autumn’s Winter Fall

Autumn’s Winter Fall, 19 November 2000

Here it is the Sunday before Thanksgiving and we have nearly three inches of snow on the ground, with the white stuff still heavily falling. It’s been at least thirty years since this part of the Old North State has had such early snow, and I’ve been able to enjoy the beauty of it knowing the temperature will be nearly fifty tomorrow. This time of the year typically brings daytime highs in the mid-sixties. Today’s high? Thirty-four, but fallen now to thirty-one as the snow begins sticking to the road. I did manage a bike ride this morning before the start of the expected “rain, possibly mixed with a little sleet or wet snow.” So much for forecasting.  We can put a man on the moon, but . . .

I have truly enjoyed this rare day, and allowed myself the luxury of not feeling guilty about work sitting unfinished on my desk from the week just passed. Not often being moved to stand over the stove, I’ve even cooked a few things, including a pot of still simmering vegetable beef soup. The aroma fills the house, bringing with it familiar, comforting feelings of warmth always evoked by kitchen smells – roastings and simmerings, bakings and broilings. An oh-so-powerful sense memory rushes in, reminding me of long-ago Sundays when the aromas of Mama’s after-church efforts filled the house.

Earlier in the day, I went to help Virginia “Ginny Bell” Bunn, an elderly friend who has been sick for more than a week and who took a fall this morning. She was feeling very fragile, understandably so, as it has been a hard year for her physically – a diagnosis of lung cancer, followed by radiation, and then laryngeal injections for a voice that comes and goes. She has dealt with it all in her inimitable fashion of just going on with what has to be done. However, today, after the fall, she said to me in an almost jocular tone, “What is going to happen to me next?” In spite of her advanced years, I know without being told that Ginny Bell believes that her Winter has come too soon, that she wishes to remain in Autumn. I did my best to reassure her that I thought she was on the mend – knowing, of course, that she was referring to what she can not yet speak about. In her eighties, she still drives, and she “does for” (a southern expression) friends and relations, young and old. Many’s the time she has been of great aid to me when I have been sick and needed groceries, yet she is having difficulty accepting help from me for this ten day stretch. There are others helping out on occasion as well, women from her church, but I am the one going to the store, post office and pharmacy, changing sheets and washing nightgowns, and calling to check on her a couple of times a day. Ginny Bell’s staunch reserve was broken this morning as she collapsed onto a kitchen chair in a release of tears, shaking with emotion because I refused money for my gift of love.

It is so hard for most of us to simply accept our need for others, though we usually find it very easy to give of ourselves when we’re the ones needed. The gift of receiving has been a considerable lesson for me through the years, as I have had to come to the humbling understanding that there is much I’ve needed help with in this lifetime. Seemingly because of that need, help is wondrously provided. With thanksgiving, I now see the face of God in all who give so freely of their love to me. I know now that to do otherwise would be to make a mockery of the sometimes rough, always just, balance of the Universe, as well as to refuse to love and value myself. It is simpler and easier now to remember there is only the One, only Oneness. I am exceedingly thankful for my personal “journey to the east,” a pilgrimage into that internal landscape of infinite connectivity and beauty. It is precisely this landscape that allows my acceptance of the multitude of presents others have so often placed before me.

November’s outer landscape becomes more beautiful as the afternoon lengthens and a lovely Autumn passively receives Heaven’s early gift. I, too, receive; I am filled with intimations from some Collective Memory, recalling places never seen by me, places where the almost silent sound of snow, common as breath, is as a tiptoeing whispering, places where only the great and tiny creatures are witness to long seasons of such white cold.

The day’s unexpected white visitor has brought to my southern neighborhood yet another surprise, something I’ve yet to see in my fifty-plus years – snow on Autumn leaves.  I bundle up and go into the yard where everywhere I look, trees still in various stages of dress hold moist powder, not only on branches and trunks, but on the small, spindly necks of leaves, while the laps of those already aground cradle a spoonful of flakes. I stand within the shelter of low, snow-laden branches and suddenly feel myself armless.  I am a fawn, and my neck slowly extends till I find myself lapping white snow-water from leaves still hanging on limbs of the twin white birches just beyond the porch. Both still hold many small, golden ovals, made heavy now by what they’ve never before known, and seem to humbly bow to the presence.

I trust that they, as do I, relish the unexpected uniqueness of Winter falling into Fall’s falling. I know these leaves, as always, will go gracefully into their own good night. I pray that Ginny Bell – and I, when it is time – will be able to do the same.

© Amy Pierce and In Spiritual Wonder, 200o-2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Amy Pierce and EnTheos with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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