Writings

a letter, after the fall

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dear autumn (with your fall and your turning and your approaching october)

you and me, we’re here again.
and i want to say that this time will be different. that we will reach a sort of reconciliation, where your ache, the one you bring to the center of my body, will be for the absurdity of a leaf so red or a sky so lit with stars that i forgive you the frost and the dying of summer sounds, the cicadas no longer able to fly.
i want to tell you that i have a new to me sweater, and i feel like this is the story i’m really trying to tell in all my backwards ways.
i want to say i’m sorry, for hating you, but everything you bring has always felt like hurt.
i want to find some kind of new pattern on the old map. did you know that the lines on your palms can change over time? it’s true. we usually think of them as set, determined. and sometimes they remain faithful to the original imprint. but they can also change. the maps themselves can change.

so every year, i wonder if this will be the one, the one that is somehow different, and won’t bring damages. won’t have the knife cut of cancer or the uprooting loss that means not just a person but a life is no longer. won’t have the chaos of not knowing how any of the pieces fit or the tremor of the restless waiting. violence. memory. the way scars on skin hurt when the weather changes. the way last year three people i loved were buried. the way the oncologist became my standing appointment. it is like a roll call of undoing.

do you remember where we were last year, in october? i do. there was the walking through france. and before this the sitting in the airport, wondering how it was possible that this was my life. there was the planes and trains and feet. the candles, and how i would go every day, sometimes twice a day, to light the large white candles that burned outside, even into the night, and how i would go there and light the flame and leave, watching people seeking. the espresso in the morning. the day it rained wet. the crying, dear god, the crying. the lost. i was so, so lost. until i was changed, and then i wasn’t lost anymore. france was a good place to be with you, and my pilgrimage was where i let go, not even knowing yet that i was only beginning, that i would loosen the fist on nearly everything. and this . . it now, already, seems like a long time ago.

so are we bound to an agreement we made before any of this began, required to submit to repetition?
i can’t believe this.
there is too much now that feels like misunderstood forgiveness, like insurrection of beauty, like trees given permission to grow tall.

our history is true and scarred.
and we’re here again.
except, i swear, this is different.
this time is different.
this falling is different.
you.
this september, moving into october.

which doesn’t mean you’ve changed your name. you still speak the same language, the one of transitions and transformations. the one of what it is to see time move. the one of release and the seduction of the great gathering and the clarity of bare.

so you still bring a gray sky on many days, and air feels like changed directions, and i think i smell the burning beginning.
you still sing melancholy, that song, the one about how things are ending, and dying, and going underground.
school still starts up, and i see him walking in every year, as i did just three weeks ago, and i think, how did it happen, another year passed and now this one passing? and their faces are all changing, and their backpacks this year are bigger, so many books to carry from one classroom to the next.
the temperatures still turn and rain clings to things, and just this week, at the grocery story, there you were, pomegranate season. seeds.

so i know you are still you.
and yet this year, the difference, the one i’m swearing by, it feels like this year we are meeting after the fall. and this is the gift.

reparation. i don’t even know the full meaning of the word. i know, but i also know that it is incomplete.
(for example, is there a difference between amends and atonement?)
if you are having the conversation about it, its possibility and meaning, than it is incomplete. because there are things you can’t repair. there are things that, if taken, cannot ever be repaid. ever. 
and yet. . .

i’m here. and i keep returning to the word. to reparation. and to this moment in my life. and the meaning is tangled. but true.
nothing made better, but something still set right.
history doesn’t change. meaning does, but history does not. you don’t get to go back and have had certain things never had happened.
so this, the reparation. it feels like a different way of understanding. not that the injury and black eyes of another’s cruelty and my equaled capacity were worth it, some kind of morality tale where horror makes you stronger. but that it now means something (not the happening of it, but the surviving of it.)
it means here. i get to be here. i survived to be here, where the picasso face of beauty up close is the shattering and mended experience of being truly met, and the next steps become brazenly clear and i’m deep in the woods of applications and deadlines, where the tickets and thatched roof room by the ruins and water of mexico are booked and waiting, where the cost of things is not confused and intimacy marries the mind with the skin with the traveled heart.
reparation. not a different past, but that "the rot was dug out with my own hands", and the hands are now stained with sweetness. like making peace with honey and ashes. everything here, whole.
and i’m not afraid.

and so maybe that is why this year (now that you are here and don’t seem interested in leaving, and we are having our yearly talk like we always do, like going to get a physical and mammogram, or making sure you’re up to date on insurance and the smoke detector batteries are changed) i keep thinking of susan pevensie.

do you know how she is the only one who does not, perhaps cannot, return to narnia? of course you do; you are time. you know everything. and i’m aware there is so much written, about this, and why he would write the story this way, and if it is an offense against women, “the problem of susan” as gaiman wrote, ushering in feminist discourse on her place in the narratives and the larger story told about what happens when girls grow into women. how this part of the story it is either an attack or this open question or un-healed wound in a mythology that seems so desiring of completion. and all of this is, in its own way, interesting, compelling even, to me. and yet, it somehow has come to mean something new to me this year, this autumn, this falling that comes after the fall, this approaching october, you.

i keep thinking of susan.

susan, in her nylons and lipstick, and how when i was a small child i loved the magic wardrobe and the lion, and so too did i love sequins and dreams of university and the stained lips and fish netted legs of rockettes.
where did she go?
they said she stopped talking about narnia. and i want to say that maybe i understand. that sometimes, you have to leave one life, to be here fully, in and for this one. and that this is both the deepest loss, and it is also, against all odds, the reparation.

i keep thinking of the railway accident, and survivors guilt. i wonder if you ever really get over it, to know that your choice to leave, your unwillingness or inability to return, is what saved you and not them. i keep thinking of her many years later, a woman, reading and writing and studying and putting ink on her skin. thinking of her many years later, a woman, the intimacies at night in sheets and love, waking in the morning and did she stand there and watch her make coffee the next morning and wonder at the extraordinary luck of it, after all this, to find your way to the impossible possible (all of them dead and returned to where they once were together, and her life here, in the world, the sound of a city always awake just outside the window.)

i keep thinking of not being able to return to narnia. and how maybe i understand this now too. how maybe it was not about faith, and her loss of it, that she grew up and out of her capacity for imagination or her unwillingness to believe and reign as queen in another life, an afterlife. maybe it was that she wanted, for this time, now, to be fully human.

what if she wasn’t lost? what if she was found. Herself.
not perfection or every question answered. but the inexplicable glory and grace of a world that makes no sense, and still comes and brings you the gifts that make all the survival mean something. which is the work, and the way your muse returns and the writing is thick like woods, and the trust of what is being created, and the black sweater, which is the story, and so i’m pulling it around me, and saying i am not afraid.

love (and it is love. strange love and knotted at times in translation love and true, true love),
isabel