The weather of the last few weeks has been disorienting, something I’m only just now really starting to appreciate. Approaching the equinox and already inserting ourselves and our schedules back into the school year, it’s decidedly fall in all the societal ways. But the uncharacteristically hot summer extended itself in such a way that, while the body knew which classes to start and which places I had to be, the soul was still somewhere else.
This morning is the third or fourth in a row that introduced a day with unsettledness, fleets of clouds coming in in literal waves across the horizon and unleashing torrents of wind and water. In between the fronts rolling in, smaller scouting squadrons of clouds nestled themselves in against the cliffs and canyons just above my home. The pavement breathes a restful sigh right now as it slowly dries where just an hour ago it was guiding parallel rivers down each gutter. The sky above moves patches of gray and blue bordered by white, and light plays with the oaks on the hill that are now also realizing that it’s fall.
I love everything about fall: cooler, crisper weather; the start of classes for all of us (Karyn is teaching the first of a series of sweater knitting classes right this instant, as if to confirm the weather-school combination); changing leaves; new projects and routines to replace a certain franticness of projects and routines taking place through the summer; a new jacket or pulling the forgotten sweatshirt out of the closet; late harvests; and, certain angles of the sun coming over the ridge line in the morning and illuminating them in the evening, at hours that are reasonable to witness first hand.
The only thing I resent about autumn is that it means, by definition, the end of summer. The end of summer itself is fine, but it’s also the end of opportunity to fit in the impossible quantity of projects and aspirations that we’d planned. Aspiration and outcome are perpetually dissimilar for me, if for no other reason than the fact that my jar of aspiration overflows without my knowing it. I keep adding ideas to it, forgetting what was already in there and committed to. I’m accepting that this is okay, as long as I recognize what does get done rather than what does not. It’s just a little cluttered to have all these jars of aspiration labeled 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, etc., all only half emptied and messing up my desk.
We, the family and I, had planned for months a backpacking trip in August, the first multi day trip that we would all do together. We ended up re-planning the trip and then not embarking even on the modified date and plan. And, I’m perfectly content that we didn’t. There were thunderstorms and disease and overcommitments, and it wasn’t like we didn’t do other things (including a day hike at 10,000 feet amongst hail and plunging temperatures, which was one of my fondest memories of the year). And, too, I got in another backpack trip in May, and it was extraordinary. And, there will be other trips, including a trek already planned into Edward Abbey’s desert in early November, and others, later, sometime.
Still, sitting next to the window and watching another of those squadrons of clouds encroach, sipping coffee, I recalled the call for a walk into the woods. I remembered that I still had a few food stocks in the basement for camp trips, and I pulled out a couple of Pop Tarts (strawberry, frosted) from a secured bear canister. So then the morning was complete with warm coffee, oozing pastry, and now the return of raindrops just outside the open window.
Along with the back-to-school updates, I got a new computer simply because it was my turn in a four-year cycle sponsored by my institution. The smell of a new computer is something that inspires me, and the touch of the new keys and the quiet of the new hardware and the lightness of the compact design … well, I’m in lust. But then it still doesn’t really replace other desires, like that nostalgia for summer and a trek outside. So I embellished my computer’s desktop with this image, taken from within a tent two years ago at the bottom of a desert canyon, staring up at millions of years of sediment, accented with eight-minute-old sunlight.
When I first selected that image, I thought it would be painful, maybe too much so to endure. It seems cruel to place an image of complete solace, tranquility, and inspiration behind a space often meant for less than tranquil work. But it’s turned out to be just the opposite. It provides an image of welcome and respite. Moreover, it reminds me that those unused beads in my jars of aspiration do get cashed in, and they will again.