Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The country of dead leaves and tenderness

October has been my favorite month for as long as I can remember. Maybe it’s because when I was born I got through one day and then October clanged in, threaded with the nostalgia of a displaced New England mother longing for what she would always call “real autumn”. And October marks the birth of my first child, the birthdays of many poets (Keats, Thomas, Plath) and Halloween, all sweets and shudders and doors left open for children. And masks. You can be what you want in October.

We slid in past a full eclipse this year. My stepmother phoned just before October, on my birthday, to tell me she loved me and she wanted her ashes divided between her second husband’s grave and her third. My dad was her second husband; her third introduced her to a love of country music and made her laugh. October came. She died.

And my artistic love of 50 years ago died. And a garden friend. And a street advocate. It’s like there’s a party somewhere and everyone is rushing off before the refreshments are gone, or the music slows. I’m getting so I flinch at the sound of the phone.

And then…well, there’s the complicated one. The other morning I walked with a good friend down by the river and along the cliffs and into the woods.

The day was October blue. The mist had just lifted. The river is low, but enough for the ducks to enjoy. A heron and an egret were fishing, standing beside each other. At our approach the egret flared up and flew upstream. The air was sweet with the scent of water and poplar and melilot. There were birds singing. We came near a few camps and apologized, along the willows or in the circles of ferns. We walked on.

There’s someone missing from the October days. I get calls from out of state; there’s a worried woman. There’s a little boy whose daddy came to make money. There are friends who haven’t heard. There’s a turned off cell phone, and a whole lot of rumors, whispered, fearful, lurid.

In the October morning my friend and I went, clambering over fallen trees, pushing through brush, hoping the poison oak we were brushing against would be kind to us. We paused, sniffed, moved on.

We felt the moss beneath our feet, watched the glitter of the creek in the filtered sunlight, tried to figure sign, by heart, by rumor, by luck…where this young father might be.

Yeah, I expected to maybe find a body. I hoped to find…oh, an injured guy. Or something.

The woods held their secrets for the moment. We thought, once or twice…is that the smell of death, over the smell of bay leaves and October sunlight. We told each other it could be…a squirrel, a bird, anything. The air eddied and teased.

Someone asked me today if I was grieving, wearing black as I am. I said the black was accidental. But my heart has been slammed, again and again and again, this lovely month.

And we are walking now towards the end, to All Hallows, to the spooks and masks and sweets. Day of the Dead, All Souls.

I don’t sleep well, these nights. Hey, if I should not be here, remember I love you. And..may all the lost, all the forgotten, all the beloved…be found.

There's a update, sadly. The body of my friend was found the day after I went looking; I did not climb far enough up the cliffs. His dog had stayed with him for four days after his death. He was murdered, my young man from Ohio. We are trying to get the dog back to a grieving mother far away who will love her.

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Blogger am said...

Feeling the weight of the deaths in your October. My birthday month, too. And Gandhi's. Looking at your cat sleeping peacefully in the sun as the sun rises here. Sending love.

7:45 AM, November 06, 2014  
Blogger Alicia Dabney said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your friend. This is such an achingly beautiful, and sad, post.

10:01 AM, November 06, 2014  

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