Implausibly, we’ve found ourselves in autumn.
A friend calls the long month between now and the beginning of the year Mayprillary, or maybe it was Junetember. But however it happened, the season of wildfires came, somehow, amid the flurry of hurricanes, early snow, and drought. And it’s not over, not by a long shot, but.
It’s Mabon, the Mid-Autumn festival is in a week (and I need to make mooncakes), I’ve L’Shana Tova’d the appropriate members of my family and community (and delivered challah, a recipe new to me and tasty although I’ll adjust it with more eggs next time). On my little tree, the figs are ripe and heavy and multitudinous for the first year since I brought it home as an impulse buy, a Charlie Brown stick of a tree that has borne precisely one fig a year since, until yesterday, when I picked two pounds of honey-sticky fruits and brought them in to the kitchen, thinking about how many were left on the tree and wondering if I had enough canning jars.
And the rains have begun.
I’ve spent so many years trying to explain why that phrase holds no bitterness for me, only relief.
This year, more people understand. More people from the lush valley I relocated to – really the moss here is obscene – are watching the rain, noting the way it defines and edges the wildfires that evacuated one in ten people in the state, hoping it’s fierce enough to soak the forests and stop the spread, but not so enthusiastic as to liquidate unstable soils, add mudslides to the scorched hillsides.
This year, I’m watching the season turn in Animal Crossing instead of being on the trail like I meant to. My gear waits in the closet; the Pacific Crest waits like a spiderweb strung from mountain to mountain. Resupply is too tricky this year; closures too frequent, the country too unstable to stop watching it for a day, let alone a week, two weeks, longer. I push A, repeatedly; shove trees; pick up the pixelated acorns and pinecones and don’t think about waterproofing my boots.
And the rains have begun.
They’ll soak into the clay soil, relaxing it until the green shoots of second-spring emerge through the mat of dry grass I last mowed in May. They’ll share the labor of watering the garden beds, making sure the rescued pepper plants flourish and the lettuce stays firm and crisp. And they’ll soften the exposed snarl of blackberry cane waiting to be trimmed back to a manageable shape before the systolic thump of spring growth pushes it skyward again and over the neighbor’s fence.
I turn my face up to the rain, and for a moment stop counting days, weeks, months. For a moment, there is only autumn, all around me, and the smell of earth waiting to grow again.