A month ago if I stood very still, tilted my head at the right angle, and thought about it really hard I could almost feel summer becoming autumn. Today it was raining and I could smell that distinct smell of “FALL” in the air. It felt like my shoulders could finally un-tense, like my lungs could finally fill up.
For the last decade or so fall has simply felt like a less energetic continuation of summer. The winters, some with days so warm and sunny that the grass is still green and flowers still bloom, have been awkward and tepid. It scares the shit out of me, honestly.
On a mundane, average, complaining level - doing much of anything in oppressive heat is almost impossible. It’s punishing. It’s not been so bad as a couple of summers in my childhood (we didn’t have AC, just a couple of big swamp coolers and honestly it was better to just go sit in the water runoff from them than indoors anyway), but it’s been it’s own kind of bad. On a deeper level? This is… wrong. It feels wrong. It tastes wrong. It’s like something deep, deep, deep, down hundreds or thousands of feet below the ground has twisted.
It started in 2010 when a tornado pissed a stripe across my neighborhood. There had been subtle wrongness that year and it amplified as the summer stretched on into fall and then into a winter where we had an actual blizzard - something almost unheard-of here. Then, a year and change later when the droughts were so severe that literally none of the state was drought-free and you could see cracks form in the soil that were so deep that they’d swallow as much metal tape measure as you could give them.
Then came the earthquakes - categorized as ‘swarms’- sounding like bombs going off before everything would rattle, shake and drop off shelves. And finally, I heard the sound of chainsaws. First in dreams - which was terrifying but manageable - and then only a few months later in the flesh. An oil pipeline being laid through old, wakeful, spirited forest. It nearly drove me nuts.
The land that had felt welcoming and peaceful felt, instead, pissed off and carnivorous. Not at me specifically, but enough hostility floated around to make me nervous and I’m not ashamed to admit that my adventures got less adventurous. Even the most mundane tree-trimming or lawn-mowing would be met with spooky results. Busted belts, busted blades, tools rusting up so quickly it’s like they were on fast-forward - things I honestly didn’t talk about at the time because they were horrifying and very physical and that stuff is the stuff that you exercise discretion about.
This compounded with Other Things meant that I my head down, and did the Work in the best ways that I could. I multiplied my usual offerings, and made sure that when delivering them I did not allow my newfound reticence to color my emotions or energy. I didn’t want to feel fear, and I sure as hell didn’t want to show it.
The Land That I Love.
It’s not just here, either. As I type this, Hurricane Harvey is doing it’s best to drown Texas and Louisiana. And when I revisited this draft it was Irma eating it’s way through island chains. When I came back again it was with the knowledge that Puerto Rico had been essentially leveled. It should not be a partisan political statement to say “It seems like storms like these are getting worse and worse.” And yet, here we are.
As someone who has intimate ties to landscape and environment this is terrifying. My spirituality doesn’t die in the absence of the land, but it fundamentally changes. And maybe it changes into something that I don’t want to be involved in anymore. Maybe it becomes a relationship, failed on both ends, that simply has to dissolve before it gets toxic. I can already feel things here shifting and changing into a landscape that is at once familiar and unfamiliar. Like going home after a long absence - it’s all the same and all different.
A banner hangs from a tall forked staff, blazoned with bold heraldry, lit by the flickering light of a fire and swaying in the night breeze. Behind it is a wood, ancient and deep, perhaps once a lined processional road that is now overshadowed on all sides by primeval wildness. Before it is the clear cut, the gentle slope down toward the lane, the moat, and finally rising again at the feet of an impossible fortification of gray-green glass.
It has been other banners before. The blazon changes depending upon who bears it, the bearer depends upon who leads, who leads depends upon the Queen - Fairest of fair, darker and brighter than the moon, shining with the cutting fire of a gem. For now I bear the banner. Like any heraldry is an amalgamation of what I have inherited, with a twist or flourish to identify it as mine. Though being confused for another is not likely now, not as likely as it was even ten years ago, or twenty - when the field was drowned in fighting bodies, rolling like the waves of a lake.
There are so few at the fireside, now. I bear the banner, lead the procession, keep the tally, mind the fire - once each a job held by a separate person. We wait until the light of dawn comes but it is three, and then only five. And stays five. One of my number sits out the ‘battle’ - we arm wrestle because no one wants to actually hurt anyone else. With so few there is no need to rip each-other apart. No one really wins or loses. In the end it’s more of an agreement based upon respect and admiration - who kept the fire burning, who greeted whom with the most warmth, who (in short) offered the most hospitality despite the lackluster turnout.
For the last decade or so fall has simply felt like a less energetic continuation of summer. The world neither dies, nor is it reborn. The spirit world starves, and grows angry. The winters, some with days so warm and sunny that the grass is still green and flowers still bloom, have been awkward and tepid. No one attends the reveries because the land cannot draw them forth, and in their absence the wheel fails to turn.
It scares the shit out of me, honestly.
(This entry was first published Sept 27 on my Patreon - and moved here in November. Dates may, therefore, be askew)