Fall has been bright and shiny, skies cornflower blue, maples golden. The Mountain Ash glow all shades of rich persimmon as the leaves stay tight on the trees, and Fire Bushes burn red. There’s a sharpness to the air that invigorates and goes straight to your brain when you’re out walking. It is so clear that we can see each layer in the range of mountains across the lake—sharply defined—high purple tops with a frosting of early white, dark gray-shadowed wooded sides, then the foothills of dark green pine dotted with early pale blonde splotches—the Tamarack just beginning to turn. In a week they will be a vivid gold rickrack in the green.
This week we have rain and clouds, and a beautiful gray. Early morning the sky hangs low in front of the mountains, a swathe of white, like a ribbon unfurled. Heavier clouds hover roundly at the mountains’ base. The lake is restless, pewter in both hue and heft. I swing the bathroom window out towards the lake and listen. The lake is moving and shushing as it rushes upon the rocks. There’s an internal rhythm of water patterns dictating its movement, rendering it deep and mysterious, always, to those of us who live close to her. The air is clean and cold, rushing into the room. I stand there, elbows on the sill, head out—listening, my heart rate slowing without conscious effort. From the porch, the copper wind chimes tinkle, little owls tangling and untangling, then silent again. There is only a light breeze that comes and goes. The iron and twig chandelier rotates slowly on its chain, then back the other way. Most of the yellow leaves have fallen from the Norway Maple just outside this window. Its bare branches will frame the many months of our winter views from this spot.
I haven’t put the coffee pot or silverware away yet, or taken the clock or signs down. There is a place in the old buffet to tuck each of these, when I am ready. I’ll bring a big stainless-steel bowl of warm soapy water out and wash them all first. I brush the pine needles from the rocking chair cushion as I settle in for a bit to listen to the lake and breathe. I need a jacket now, but still resist packing up the porch. Today, I wonder if I should have done it earlier.
October suspends us. We want to stay here, outside, in touch with everything that lives and breathes in this place . . . the eagles, the squirrels, the water, the coots and geese floating on the bay, the pine tops moving and whispering, the deer stepping delicately to the lake at night, the bear breaking a branch from the neighbor’s tree while reaching for the plums last night. The porch is our place of connection, and we put off closing it up until we have no choice, until the air is so cold that we must tape the gaps around the door.
The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming. But again and again we avoid the long thoughts . . .
What is it about October that draws me toward the long thoughts? Welcomes them? Ah, if only it were as simple as acknowledging my affinity with this season. I am Autumn, and I am unafraid of the long thoughts. What will they teach me? “I’m paying attention, October. Show me how to do it.”
The name of the room is Remember—the room where with patience, with charity, with quietness of heart, we remember consciously to remember the lives we have lived.
A Room Called Remember, Frederick Buechner