by James Morrison
These are the warm calm
days before fall strips the trees
and rain turns the ground slick
the sky unpredictable,
the days of yellowjackets and fruit flies
that hover over the last wave of fallen
apples and grapes. I’m spending time
with the fat orange and brown spiders
tying pitchfork handle to compost bin,
house to camellia, camellia to spruce,
spruce to the blooming red dahlia.
Though almost brittle to touch,
the webs flex with the breeze, suspended
by strands taller than the kitchen windows.
If one ruptures, if a trapped moth tears
free, the scent in the air
says there is still time to mend
to thrive even as the flies are fewer
with the season’s change before the first storm
shreds then washes the weaving away.
I’m afraid I’m just now too late to write about spider weather, that time of year just at the tail-end of summer. Those days when we wake up to a slight chill on our nose coming in from the open window. The days when we ride to work wrapped in a film of drizzle. The moments when we decide to unfold a sweater from the closet. These days are calm, when we try to hold sunshine between cupped hands but watch in vain as it slips away too early each day. The days when spiders are everywhere in their steadfast, patient waiting. These spiders, that remind us of fall in its brilliant colors…and winter, coming ever closer, that time to retreat and forgive and dream. But, alas, are the days of spider weather behind us? As I sit at my kitchen table with a steaming cup to tea, the sky has just begun to erupt the first big storm of the year.
I have always loved fall. It is a time for me to think of hibernation again after the desperate drive in summer to savor every moment of light and heat. It is time for cuddling and creation, introspection and insight. I think of fall and spring as fringe seasons, times of creation when new life just begins to emerge and then begins to whither away again. The other morning as I biked to work, I first began to notice the trees bordering the walkway at the Sunset Transit Center. They were changing colors. Brilliantly. I felt that familiar rush of excitement inside me, the urge to create something: a poem, a painting, an essay. Words flooded my mind like the first rain swirling around drains clogged with leaves. I felt this urge to capture beauty and contain it, immortalize it in words or music or art. The other weekend, we celebrated the birthday and marriage of my dear friend Stephanie. Eight women gathered at a cabin near Mt. Rainier to eat and talk and create collage art for Stephanie’s wedding guest book. It was a revealing time: that carving out spaces to make art is so important. And though retreating into one’s own cozy, creative cave is important, sometimes creating art with others can be more powerful. We cut up magazines, we glued until our fingers were sticky, we laughed, we talked, and we affirmed each others unique creative spirit.
Now we are in the thick of it. I sleep with two blankets on top of my summer bed and I know it will be time, soon enough, to get out my comforter for good. I have taken a two-week break from the bicycle but I know that I cannot drive to work forever. I know that my rain pants and rain jacket will become my new fashion statement and that it is almost time for ever-present soups and squash. I am shutting my windows for the first time in six months but leave them cracked so I can hear the rain on the sidewalk. Why do I write so much about the rain? I can smell the it before it comes, like a salmon smelling its way home, and I relish its wetness, its cold that sends us running home to space heaters and fire places and tea.
In this time, the days after spider weather, we turn over our gardens for winter, prep the beds for months of cold and wet. We prepare our hearts and bodies for a season of retreat, when we will spend more time inside with our friends than out. The time when we harvest the bounty of summer and its potatoes, its sweet apples, and its onions that captured nutrients from the soil. The time when we venture out into dripping forests to look for mushrooms. The time when we squeeze apples for their juice and boil them down into applesauce. The time when trees shed the husks of their leaves, once so active and necessary for energy and growth, making room for new ones in the Spring. The time when creation hugs us close, when we must slow down from the frenetic pace of summer. When we have more time for creativity to bloom inside us. When the rains come down as they always will, but when we decide go out to dance in it.