top of page

Harbinger leaves

Tuesday 8/1/23

And so we come to August, the last of the summer months. As my weeks begin on Saturdays, I consider September 1 the start of autumn. July is the worst month of the year. In August there may be fall-like days, at least here in New England. There's that burnt note--the first wisp of the tang--in the wind, if not the breeze. But it does happen. Then there are also the leaves that check out early and go to ground. I sort of admire the leaves that fall first. Their color is altered. You see them on the green grass, the harbinger leaves.

A friend of my mother's was remarking to her recently that fall is so beautiful there on the north shore of Chicago, which my mother thought was funny, being from New England. We fell to talking about the drive from our house in Mansfield to my grandmother's in Readville. That's where I take the train now when I walk out to the Blue Hills, which I should do again soon. The last time I was there I went up and down, like when I do stairs. That was a good workout. And in a beautiful spot.

The drive was just the drive to my grandmother's, but it was also more. We never spoke of what we saw on those rides in October and November; they were just part of life here--the background of life. I mentioned to my mother the cranberry bog we'd pass, and she knew exactly where it was. I remember being mesmerized by the rightness of that bog, those colors, this place. It was enchanting to me and real. Tangible autumnal magic. And the magic of place.

There had been a mourning dove that was especially vocal every morning for the first part of summer, but in the past couple of weeks, the dove seems to have been replaced by gulls. They are the birds who make themselves the most audibly known, I've noticed, in recent mornings, and also throughout the day. The other birds issue the majority of their sounds early on. The gulls keep it going, though gulls aren't really singing, of course.

Yesterday after having written much and ran the stairs, I went to the cafe to work. This will usually involve reading and note-making for various things. The activities are separate, but I will also do them at the same time, reading some pages here, then stopping to make notes about this or that, then reading some more, and so on. The notes can be about works I'm doing, things I have to do, people and places who will be going up on and getting exposed in these pages; everything is thorough. I don't do anything without moving from a place and position of maximum thoroughness.

There were five women around the age of eighty, a couple tables away from me. They had gathered for what seemed to be one of their weekly get-togethers. You could tell it was a thing they do, though I'd not seen them in this place before. They talked about things like their school days. Isn't it interesting how we come back to those experiences? We are so formative then, if you will, that it's like those experiences count for more, or have a different type of staying power with most people. I think what you want to do is have everything be a potentially formative experience, because you come to the world with the same openness as you did then. The trick is in not losing the openness, which causes you lose--or have lessened--your capacity for wonder. But in order to remain impressionable within the world, a person must be strong within or else those impressions and feelings will resonate as blows. They'll be too much, a person will be too open and exposed. A hard layer is needed, yes, and people have a hard layer on their outside; but it's better for that layer, as such, to be a redoubtable foundation. Then everything in the world can pass into you, but it doesn't create these gaping holes in you, given that nothing pierces the foundation.

Eventually one of the women left, leaving her four friends behind. She wasn't out the door when the remaining quartet began talking about how little she eats, and then puzzling over how she puts on weight. She wasn't a large woman. Average. The moment you leave, though, remarks will be made about you. It's human nature. The absence creates this gap, and then the conversation naturally flows into that gap whose subject is the individual who just made it. They weren't being mean. It made me sad all the same, though. A feeling will come over me sometimes where I just want people to be healthy and well and also not to hurt or doubt. I found myself thinking that way about the woman who'd left. Sometimes I hope that people will take care of themselves. The idea of someone feeling alone troubles me a great deal, which is ironic, I suppose, being at present and for a long time now more alone than anyone has ever been. It's not that I'm comparing. I've left myself out of it. I simply don't want people to hurt that way, and I picture them alone, feeling like they can't turn to anyone, and the pain and fear that causes. I don't want people to be scared, either.

What I think happens often now is that people do feel totally alone. They generally are alone in this age. And it's just too hard for just about anyone to live that way. And I believe this accounts for so much of the pain in the world, and the anger. The lashing out. It changes people, being alone. And again, it's a very rare person who can draw on themselves and grow while alone, and find strength. It's a different level of mental discipline and purpose. Self-awareness. Depth. Control. Will. And how varied and interesting a person's mind is. If it's not boundless, it's a no-go. So as I said, it's not a comparison thing, but an empathy thing. I don't want that pain to be there for people. Even as I fully know that most people are horrible. They're lazy. Selfish. Uncaring. And it's like they try and make themselves as stupid as possible. All of which creates massive issues for me as I'm trying to get to where I'm going to. And leaves precious little for me, in terms of anyone I might have in my life, even at some token level of distance, never mind the ways that count, which are really the only ways I could ever be interested in. But it is how I feel in my heart.


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page