When Michael Kashmanian announced the reading event “Words of the Season” at Jimmy O’Toole’s in Whitby about a month ago, I struggled with the notion of “seasonal” prose and/or poetry. Michael assured me that the term could be used broadly, widely or not at all. Just come, he said, and read what you have, although he did express interest in a poem I alluded to about springtime, parents and suicide. I read, Choose the Hammock, my short story about the “seasons” of one woman’s life, if you will.
I think that for me the event may have been too early or too late in the autumn or the summer, respectively, since the weather waffled and fluttered and hadn’t landed squarely in autumn nor left summer completely behind. Today is different. Maybe the beginning of September signals the end of summer, but Thanksgiving truly launches autumn. And this year in this place, I watch the spiralling rust and flame-coloured leaves signaling something fresh and promising. I feel as though I am perched on the edge of flight, my body inclining out into air. (No concrete in sight.)
The sun has been warm and dry for days now. Yesterday, my two stepchildren sat on a grassy slope in my backyard watching their sons play by the river. My son who is fifteen sat beside his brother who is twenty-five, chatting and laughing quietly. At one point they both dropped back to lay on their backs, side-by-side, and watched a turkey vulture drift high above them. I stood on the back deck watching this scene and felt happy. A simple easy happiness that asked for nothing more.
My property is big and much needs to happen in the fall to prepare for winter. In years past I have panicked, tried to do it all myself, begged my son, and paid people to help me pack up summer. This year it was easy. Friends and family helped and then I fed them all Thanksgiving dinner. But even with that I had help. So the work was light for everyone. The dock is in, the tent is down, the canoe is up and the roof heater cables are on. I’m ready.
Communal living has appealed to me for years – from the seventies when I went “back-to-the-land” to the eighties when I lived on a commune on Oregon, the notion of sharing duties, jobs, responsibilities made so much sense. Many hands make light work, as they say. We’re not meant to live alone. And yet, alongside this longing for community and sharing and family, is a fierce independence and need for solitude. Even in the late nineties and early nothings, my home teemed with helpers and residents devoted to the communal effort of Jalbun Lodge. (http://www.miditrax.com/jalbun.htm) As much as I loved the company and the sharing I longed for a patch of space and quiet that could be just mine.
This weekend I realized that the balance can be and has been achieved: one day full of friends and family, food and festivities, and then today, when the house was empty, I went outside into the whisky-scented afternoon and had my final outdoor shower of the year, and afterward stood in a patch of sunlight on the soft grass, letting the warmth of the day into my clean skin.
This is where I live now: between the worlds of summer and fall, of family and solitude, and of solid ground and freefall.