November on the Hill

By Michelle Blake on November 17, 2010 5:05 PM


When I was young, autumn was my season of renewal. Even into my thirties I either attended or taught in universities, and by late August, the buzz of preparation would pick me up and carry me into the waning light and sharp-edged mornings. Then my children's school preparations took precedence and performed the same magical feat. I loved the way the adrenaline in my body matched the colder air, the busier streets in our college town, the calendar filled with additions and changes and more commitments than any family could possibly honor.

In September, 2001, my father died one week after the attack on the World Trade Center. My husband, my children and I found ourselves almost alone in the vast stretches of Logan Airport, waiting for a plane to Houston. The months following were hard and dark. I remember getting furious one morning when my son failed to put any kind of fruit in his lunchbox. Fruit in his lunchbox? I don't even know who that woman was. 

For the next three or four years, the approach of fall brought on panic, minor depression, a thinning of the blood and spirit. I dreaded the shift from hot sun to long shadows. I used the touted remedies, which mostly helped, and over time I regained balance, if not my earlier enthusiasm for the season.

Now, I have a sensible mix of both responses--a quickening when the cold comes and the evening light turns thin and blue, along with a dread of everything we have all lost, as if we are about to lose it all over again. Neither of these responses staggers me, and they seem to be polite to each other, "You first." "No, no, I insist, you go ahead." 
I can feel washed by autumn color one minute and pinned down by approaching night the next.

I am glad to be older. I don't mind my feelings mixing it up. I don't long for consistency and reason the way I used to. I just don't want to miss anything. That's what I want most now--not to miss anything.