Fall: season of loss and discovery

In the waning days of fall, I recorded this while walking in the forest…

Fall, the season, is rich with symbolism galore:

Fall, is falling temperatures; is falling leaves and falling fir cones, because the squirrels in the forest nibble them off the branches and they fall to the ground—to be harvested and chewed on for the rest of winter.

Fall is a time of great beauty. That beauty, of course, comes from the death of things. The leaves, once brilliant in the sunlight, fall from their trees. Then, those leaves produce a protective covering for the plants to come in the Spring.

I also love Fall because it is the season of fungus among us. Of course I had to say that since I am a poet and I know it.

But seriously, Fall provides opportunity for reflecting on the beauty all around—even in the dying days of warmth and sunlight.

In my process these days—you know THE process of grieving my sweetheart—I have learned a lot about what the death of someone so near and dear can bring to me. Of course it has brought me great sorrow and abundant tears, much like the Fall brings the rainier days and the quiet sad grayness of the Pacific Northwest.

Right now, Fall is a perfect time for me to embrace my mood. It’s not necessarily the kind of moodiness that comes from grouching about the state of affairs—you know, the world state of affairs, the national state of affairs, the human state of affairs. No, this mood is solely born of grieving a loss so dear, so deep, that it will take me quite some time to get to the deepest end of it.

As I moodily walk this forest, my discovery is that grief is cumulative, much like the fall leaves are cumulative as they cascade onto the path and the fungus and moss below. Grief piles up. Not just grieving the loss of my husband, but also the many times when I have experienced loss: the many deaths of dear ones, the loss of our long time family home, the loss of trust in others, in myself, in life, and in Spirit. There have been losses of babies—as fetuses, and there have been losses of baby, nascent dreams that were squelched too early on.

All of these losses, as I say: they accumulate like the fall leaves on the ground. Yet, much like Fall giving way to the quiet of winter, and the bursting forth of life in Spring—all the losses feed what is to come—especially if I allow that to be so. And I’m beginning to see that: the cycle of life in Nature, but also the season of grieving my losses.

Interesting word: loss, usually defined as losing something that one will find again. So it’s an odd word for what is really happening, since my current loss can’t be found. I’m not going to find my husband again, on this earth plane anyway. Nor am I going to find all of that I’ve lost in my life. No. One cannot reclaim the leaves from the forest floor, because the leaves are down. They’ve fallen to their rest and their new iteration as compost and nurturance of the new growth to come.

So, loss perhaps is an ok word for what I am experiencing, and have experienced, and we all have experienced because maybe it’s not the object of the loss that will be found, but something else, if one only looks deeply enough. In my grief process, I have found so many things: I have found that grief is quite painful in the body as well as in the mind and the soul. Yet, I’ve also found that after a darker night, when the pain was so intense I did not know I could survive it, the new day dawns a short time later, and I seem to be able to stand and walk and be in the world to a degree that is a little more balanced and more present than before the deep dark dive.

I’ve learned that what I can find while grieving this great loss are the neglected parts of myself. I’m doing my best to attend to those neglected parts, asking: “What do you need honey?” And then I find ways to get what I need in order to heal and soothe those parts.

Grieving this loss has spurred on a new way of looking at life. It’s not a Spring-like new way, ala beautiful flowers blooming and birds chirping…. Well, maybe an occasional Fall bird or so. This loss is more a keen observation of contrasts. There’s the contrast of being together with someone for so long, and now being alone. There’s the contrast between my many moments of joy before this loss, and the nascent moments of joy that are just beginning to pop out here and there, like so many fungi—aka mushrooms— in the forest: Every once in awhile, there they are: a brilliant bouquet or patch or fairy ring of fungi. And it’s always so delightful to see them.

And so too with my joy moments: it’s delightful for me to experience them. They give me comfort, and dare I say, hope for a future of more of those moments.

My creativity is spurred on by that: the bits of joy I’ve found in the deep layers of the pile of things I have lost. In the forest, I like to kick through the leaves and dig with my feet through the piles on the side of the path and come to find all kinds of things: a salamander the other day, sleepy as can be, getting ready for a long winter nap. Then there were fungi, then just the rich, newly fertilized brown earth, as well as a tiny cedar sapling.

When I kick through the accumulation of my losses, the discoveries have been rich. I’ve discovered the incomplete, unprocessed losses, the people and relationships and events and experiences that I had not fully grieved.

Ha! Right now, a dirt biker just buzzed by me, disturbing the quiet of my forest ramble, and I’m laughing because that dirt biker is like me as I was not too terribly long ago: Whenever I would experience a loss, I would zoom through it, thinking I had left it in the dust, so to speak.

But nope: As I visit those losses again, and I’m walking through them rather than zooming through, I see a lot more. I see how I’ve handled things and what beliefs about loss I’ve adopted. I see that my putting my head down and barreling through had worked to a certain degree, but I missed a lot of the scenery and I especially missed a lot of the lessons. For every relationship I’ve experienced, for every experience that created great loss, I have derived great benefit. I can see that now. The benefit of the fallen leaves is in nurturing the new growth; my observations and fully experiencing my grief will benefit my future as well.

I’m not trying to race through it. Not this time. Rather I’m letting the tears, and leaves, and old ideas to fall.

What ever needs to fall, I let it fall and land where it may.

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1 Comment

  1. Elisabeth F Fairchild on December 1, 2020 at 10:01 pm

    Wonderfully said, very real, and truly insightful. I, too, have found that grief is cumulative. I, too, have found peace in the pain, joy in the sorrow, and great love in the greatest loss. I, too, find solace and inspiration in observing Nature and her natural rhythms. As one who began life on an island, I see my lows as ebbs and my highs as floods. In the ocean of love that is life, I live in the intertidal zone — so rich with life and change. As one born on a new moon, I see the new beginnings in each new moment. Change is not so much permanent in results as it is a constant process. This too shall pass, and this too shall return. Seeing this pattern of expansion and contraction be it the lungs of my dying spouse/ or in my newborn granddaughter or in the cosmic contraction of a black hole or the Big Bang of the universe, gives me hope for feeling the divine rhythm and learning to dance with it like no one is watching.

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