“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” ~ George Eliot
We made it, kids. Fall is here. Fall is my favorite. Here are three fall-ish things.
SOMETHING I’M LISTENING TO: MY INTUITION
Yeah, so I’m still listening to that Superfood record I wrote about last week and just last night I saw Thee Oh Sees at Neumos with more stage-diving-crowd-surfers than I’ve ever seen at a show before which was off-the-charts wild and fun but what I’m really listening to is, well…me.
Fall has always been a season of reassessment and reinvention for me. As a kid, every September I fantasized about coming back to school as a better, more interesting version of me. Anything was possible in the fall. New clothes, new classes, new friends.
So I’ve been spending time in the quiet of my breath, making sure I slow down and assess boundary lines in my relationships as well as in my work and play. What’s working? What isn’t? What do I allow? What do I not allow?
the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.
Exactly. Without the need for conscious reasoning. Something just feels “off”, not right, not sitting well with me. That’s the stuff I look out for in my moments of quiet breath. It’s the stuff when you open your mouth and share it with the wrong people and you’re told you’re overreacting, or too sensitive or simply silly. It’s the stuff you keep ignoring and watch it eventually build into a life that feels inauthentic. Like you’re playing a part, a character foreign to yourself.
Stop that shit right now.
A friend recently wrote about finding the power of saying “no”. I had to agree that being able to confidently say “no thank you” to people, places and things that simply don’t feel right any longer–or ever–has been one of the best parts of growing older. I’ve said yes to far too many things that didn’t sit well with me, for the sake of getting along.
Getting along just isn’t as much of a priority for me these days. The people I hold closest to my heart understand.
I often talk about the falling leaves in autumn as nature’s reminder to release what is no longer serving us.
Nature is a powerful, wise teacher. Make sure you spend some time with her this fall.
SOMETHING I’M COOKING: MUSHROOMS, WITH FRIENDS
It was the text I needed on the night I needed it the most.
“Sounds like we need a cocktail. Come over and we’ll make dinner and drinks. You like mushrooms, right?”
Do I like mushrooms? Oh, be still my heart.
What this friend didn’t know is that I had been recently hoarding all manner of mushroom recipes. Mushroom lasagne, mushroom soup, wild mushroom marsala pasta–you get the picture. My family detests mushrooms, so with my freshly emptied nest it was the most perfect opportunity to whip up some delicious mushroom concoction to usher in the advent of fall.
Cooking and baking is my soul food. Cooking and baking with a dear friend is, as it turns out, therapy.
We (she) made a rustic mushroom tart. A galette, actually. A galette is like a pie that doesn’t mind being a bit imperfect and rough around the edges. Matter of fact, the charm of a galette is its imperfection. No carefully fluted pie crust necessary. These days, imperfection is one of my favorite things.
We (she) got to cooking. Me, I basically chopped the mushrooms–a whopping pound and a half of shrooms, a tasty mix of wild and cremini. We (she) sautéed the whole mess of them with shallots and garlic and finished it with a swirl of mascarpone cheese and a shower of parmesan. Into the pastry it all went, the edges folded over here and there with makeshift pleats of dough to make a charming mushroom package of sorts.
As the tart baked, we hung out and sipped our whiskey sours and commiserated over our freshly emptied nests. Soul food. Therapy. The smells in the kitchen made me swoon.
We (she) paired the mushroom tart with a fantastic kale salad with roasted butternut squash and toasted almonds.
Mushrooms + kale + butternut squash + toasted nuts + whiskey = autumn. At least by my calculations.
Hours later, I headed home, leftover tart riding shotgun, belly and heart full, soul fed. My freshly emptied nest just a little more welcoming.
SOMETHING I’M DOING: LETTING GO
“Let go or be dragged.” ~ Zen proverb
The minute they’re born, they begin to leave.
From the final push out the womb or the whisk up and away from a neatly scalpeled uterus, snip goes the umbilical cord and there they go.
They were never “ours” to begin with.
First breath, first poop, first babble, first wobbly step. Everything exists to move away from us.
We exist to keep them safe as they fly.
When my son went off to college in Arizona, I would sometimes lay awake at night, imagining him in the desert, a place so foreign to me that it loomed like a predator. The dry, arid sandscapes taking him away. An ache, a pull, a very real tug at the center of my abdomen.
Belly button, cord of life.
I dropped my daughter, my youngest, off at her college dorm this week. Not Arizona, but in Seattle. Close, but so far away.
“Are you okay?” my friends text me. “Of course,” I say.
I am okay.
And I am proud. And sad. Teary, a lot. Overcome with the poignancy of transition, of time passing. Grateful. Privileged to be able to see my kids off to college. I know this is a milestone that many do not get to pass.
I don’t take any of it for granted.
My inability to leave was of my own volition, a cage of my own construction, but for years I blamed my mother. My mother, who suffered loss after loss after loss. Unimaginable pain. And me, the mistake, the unplanned oopsy baby. Apparently, I grew on her over the years, because at 18 I could not leave. For awhile, I resented my older siblings, flying off, one by one–to school, to Europe, to new lives, exciting, independent lives and I stood and waved goodbye with clipped wings.
It hadn’t been easy at my house. A brother who struggled with learning disabilities and rage and suspected abuse at the hands of a neighbor. By the time I was 16, he had threatened us and attacked me physically. Blood, stitches, scars. Urgent ambulance wheels crunching on our gravel driveway. The sharp smell of iodine on wounds. His presence lorded over us with fear.
So much fear.
My fear, my guilt, my mother. But ultimately it was me who decided to stay behind in an effort to be a protector.
As if I could have done anything.
At 21, I finally moved out. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw my mom, standing and waving and crying on the front porch of the condo we shared as I drove off in a little faded-red Datsun wagon, packed to the roof with my life. Portland. TV station. Big job, big move, big feels. I choked back the urge to turn around and stay.
Belly tug. Ache. Snip.
From the instant they were free of my body, I wanted to give them something different. Less fear, more freedom. Wings as far as the eyes could see.
Let go or be dragged.
I open my hands and spread my fingers wide. No grasping, no gripping, no white knuckles, no holding on for dear life.