Ready for Winter
Ready for Winter

Last night, I took a flashlight out to the pond and gazed into the waters and around the limestone borders. Thanks to our nifty filter, the water is as clear as chardonnay. Two sets of eyes shone in the night: my larger frogs, Green Lips and Green Head (original names, huh?) lurked beneath the overhanging stone shelves, eager for some bugs to come their way.

In this colder weather, the bugs are increasingly scarce—good for me, bad for the frogs. I have been wanting to write about the glory of this new, fresh, fall season for weeks now. I think it was back in early September that I got my first whiff of the season, blown in from somewhere, that fleeting tang in the air that smells like a fermentation of all that was summer.

Counting "King" frog, there are three frogs in this photo...can you see them?
Counting "King" frog, there are three frogs in this photo...can you see them?

Leaves are dropping now, but still hesitantly. I’ve rigged up netting over the pond to stem the deluge that will come from the leafy forest canopy. Like the rest of creation here in this part of the world, I am sorting my larder—storing and tossing. I am making an inner root cellar to feed my soul through the coming winter. Here is the bounty I have cultivated this summer:

In June, I made the decision—both medically and intuitively driven—to stop everything in my life, pull inside, and rest. Each day, I woke up telling myself, “I’m free today. Free! What calls me?” I sensed deeply that this stopping of my life and business had things to tell me, and it did. I was only able to do this “time out” because we had cashed out my small IRA. Yes, there are penalties for this. And yes, they were worth it.

The first thing that called for my attention was the pond that didn’t exist. My argumentative brain said to me, “You don’t have the energy for this. You are not strong enough to carry stones, to dig dirt, or to think clearly enough to plan this out.” Still, the pond called. I would find myself standing blankly at its neglected, broken concrete liner, my head in a fog.

Then, one morning, in my place of total freedom, my hands began tearing at the stones and the broken concrete. Carter brought a sledgehammer, and eventually, the broken mess was a clean, dirt hole. I found a focus and an ability to plan that I’d been missing for several years, and the pond came into being.

Evenings would find me exhausted, muscles aching, yet jubilant that the ache was a good one—not the feeling that I had been beaten all over with sticks, which had haunted me for so long. In my freedom, I tended and harvested the realization that my health and physicality CAN return to me, but only under the right circumstances. And I’ve learned that I can lose it quickly under the wrong ones.

I spent just about all of the summer outside, remembering over and over the same thing I tell all of you, all of the time: Nature heals. Simply absorbing her heals. Sitting quietly in green places heals. Putting shovels into her soil and planting things heals, even if what you planted never comes up. Time outside grows an abundant inner garden in the soul, and it is a guaranteed high yield, because that is what nature does. She grows, she heals.

To my door came critter after critter in need of care. Some, I ushered to health. Some, I buried. And in the process, I harvested another bit of precious knowing: helping the hurt ones heals me.

Autumn turtles in the hollow
Autumn turtles in the hollow

By late September, I was finding salamander and frogs under every stone near the creek. Most of them have moved on now, perhaps to winter shelters. The raccoon cubs that visited with their mother in the late spring are now coming on their own to eat the dog food and leftovers I leave out for them. They are sleek and fat, just like the flying squirrels—I call them unicorns—that I’ve been leaving sunflower seeds for all summer.

And I harvest the simple truth that, in my own little corner of the world, I can make a big difference. The creatures on my land are stewarded with great respect, and they respond by letting me see them in all their beauty and inherent mystery. “My” birds chorus for me. “Carter’s” pond fish rise and splash for him. “Our” frogs lullaby us to sleep. “Our” trees drop limbs and trunks so that we will have warmth in our hearth this winter.

Summer’s end found me restored to health and wellbeing, my arms like Madonna’s, and my legs strong as a sprinter’s.  I had been right: my body told me what it needed, and I finally listened.

Then, I took a close look at our finances. Ack! Our cabin has not sold as we needed it to (anyone want to buy a precious mountain cabin for cheap?), and the drain on us is huge. Says me to myself, “I’m strong enough now to take on some temp work.”  And so Kelly Services and I became acquainted. I took a job doing phone surveys for soft drink companies.

That was a little over a week ago. Wouldn’t you know it, my body feels like I’ve been beaten with sticks. I’m exhausted in the evenings and it is not a good exhaustion. My mind is going foggy and my mood is frantic and lost. And I acknowledge this powerful lesson I have harvested: My body knows what she will tolerate, and what she won’t. And my self-talk can kill me if I let it. I listen to the voice in my mind anxiously muttering, “I’m not free anymore. I’m trapped. I’m not myself. Myself would be doing something else, like taking the chickens out for a stroll.”

Depression is grabbing for me with sticky fingers, and I give thanks for yet another gift: I understand that am one among so many who is living a life that is for the moment forced upon us be circumstances.

This autumn I gather up and put upon my cellar shelves the realization that I—we—walk a fragile edge between what our bodies and souls will tolerate and what we must do. This past summer, I grew a garden full of powerful lessons. Now, I take them inside and store them, asking myself, “Will this harvest feed me through the cold months of winter?”

We’ll see. What future seasons bring is always in the hands of mystery and surprise—those giggly, coyote twins. But I have the newfound knowledge that I CAN heal, and that I know my real limits a bit better, body and soul. I found, too, that some lessons are worth the financial cost.

And, I just learned yesterday that you cannot attach a comfrey poultice to a chicken’s head. Live and learn, live and learn.

May autumn find you filling your soul cellar with rich, ripe treasures. May you be sanctified by the falling leaves, and baptized by autumn winds.

Tell me about your autumn? What have you harvested? Please, share your autumnal heart with us.

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