In Portland, the sun collects the billowy clouds, drawing them close around itself; before winter’s over, i’ll forget that bright star is even still there, shining unseen behind the all-enveloping curtain.
The rains make their return, caressing the trees and the moss, soaking the soil and our shoes. The air has lost its baby teeth, and what replaced them ain’t goin nowhere for a while: the chill’s bite gets meaner, sinks further all the time.
All around town
t u m b l e
to the ground
fades to orange
in the elements,
When a leaf releases from the branch, embarks upon its groundward trajectory, hitting my face, my neck, i’m always shocked by the impact, surprised that something so light and insubstantial feels so fucking heavy, shoves me quick into profound awareness.
Of the improbable yet indubitable fact of my body’s existence on this good earth.
Of inextricable connection with the other organisms whose existence is tangled up with mine.
Of the vastness of this world, the quickness of its whirl, that the fastness which it proffers is not protection from ourselves.
That’s part of the work of Samhain, of this season; preparing to turn inward, to head underground, to sink into the secret processes of winter that transpire out of sight, in places within us too far to feel, ways too miniscule to track. To go where we must, to do the next right thing, the work that is ours (and part of that work is defining what work ours is), we must, like Inanna, get rid of so much that we cannot do without, or imagine doing without. And then we must keep going, continue doing without it.
Every time a leaf slaps me into myself as it hurtles to the ground, i can’t help but wonder: What am i clinging to though i am no longer even able to really hold it? What am i diligently serving that i can no longer keep up? If this leaf packs a wallop, what can i generate by unclenching and letting go? What can liberated energy do?
A tiny slice of life from my country: trans people are being increasingly openly targeted through policy; non-Black people continue to murder Black people with impunity while we live our ordinary lives; anti-Semites escalate from frothing at the mouth about Jewish control of everything to murdering Jewish people at temple in an attempt to break that supposed hold.
And of course, the temperatures are rising, with the storms and the seas, all over the world. The world is burning, it feels like. Not the same way all over, surely–some spots smolder and smoke, fighting to catch light, while others burn merrily but manageably; they’re contained, controlled. And when there’s so many places where there’s no hint of smoke, where ash isn’t drifting, and the ground’s not hot, so many places to withdraw to, places with clear air and a sense of peace, maybe worrying about flames that are one fat spark away from a forest fire is unnecessary? And anyway, what could you do that would even be useful, plus the world is huge, so even if you could do something it wouldn’t be enough, really, so why bother, and anyway, if you don’t do things properly no change that really matters will come about, and we have to work with the system we’re given and the hand we’re dealt, and anyway, it’s not even that bad most places, and things won’t get that bad if people just vote, it’ll all work itself out, and worrying never did anyone any good so
For the brave, who don’t close their eyes to it, who stay connected to the humanity of those hemmed up by the hell that ‘harm reduction’ so often creates, who stay afraid and doing it anyway: what balm is there? Surrounded by this horror and suffering, there’s a chance to reap Samhain blessings, to cross the bridge to your dead, perceive your ancestors through the thinning veils, to be gifted and led by those who preceded you: who struggled and claimed their birthright, agency in their own lives; who birthed and nurtured children in this world when continued existence was uncertain; who sang songs, and carved wood, and drank in color wherever they could, refusing to call beauty frivolous; who lived in right relationship with the other denizens of this amazing world that we get to live on, and with the world itself. In acknowledging our ancestors, we affirm the voice inside that says, ‘this isn’t the inevitable end; this is not all there has ever been’: we open to possibility.
The descendants, too, have wisdom and perspective to bestow; by opening ourselves to what they’re experiencing, by considering what they require and what they have in abundance, by listening into the cracks for which obstacles continue unmoved and which ones are obsolete, we can take direction from those that come after about which ways to head in, which paths to cut and beat, and about how to move towards where we’re going. In dealing with our descendants, we feed the voice inside us that says, ‘this destiny is not fixed; this is not all there will ever be’, we charge it with curiosity and certainty, we breathe into the inevitability of manifesting possibilities.
Because also, also: this world is achingly beautiful, almost painfully abundant–could any amount of lifetimes be enough to learn this world by heart, for the wonder of its workings to wane? Birds call to each other, perfectly spherical orange slime mold grows on dandelion carcasses, and earthworms slowly expand and contract their way across the endless sidewalk. You catch glimpse of yourself in a mirror, or a puddle, or an interaction with others, and what you see doesn’t make you want to turn away, but to lean in closer to see more clearly how you shine. Your friends are committing themselves to one another, and to the world, and to themselves, in ways you never dreamed could happen, or dreamed of but couldn’t hope for, or hoped for but never thought to see. Babies are discovering their noses and toeses and laughs and their own voice; fluffy kittens learn to stalk; old dogs re-live their glory days, bolting through the leaves towards a squirrel, then coming home to fart in their sleep. These little sweetnesses remain as the season marches on.
And all the while, the earth twirls on its axis, cycles around the sun. The final leaves drop, the last of the birds head south, we add more layers when we leave the house. The nights lengthen, creep up on us earlier and earlier; moments of light are more and more fleeting. The darkness waits to envelop us, wants to make it easier for us to turn toward that which is within us, offers itself to be mined for gifts. What harvest awaits you in the dark, if only you dare look? What is pushing itself towards the surface within you, stretching desperately to make contact?