Walking out today, and the air felt fresh and sharp; twangs of sap from the growth plucked from the oaks, ashes, and chestnuts by Storm Bronagh that passed by a couple days ago. Bronagh may be gone, but she still has straggling gusts chasing at her skirts – making these old trees creak alarmingly, and setting up the jays in the wood.
It’s breezy. Not quite ‘wild’ and not exactly what Britishers might call ‘a good stiff breeze’ but it’s getting there. When I pass by the cul-de-sac of houses, I am met by the thrumming whurr of telephone wires vibrating with the wind.
It’s a scouring time of the year. It’s a strange time, too – with the colors of the green changing to yellows, reds, purples and ochre. A warm week in Autumn can create a fresh flush of wildflowers or the last valiant efforts of roses. A wet Autumn often brings with it midday thunder and shivers of lightning.
I’ve always felt drawn to this strange season near the end of the year – not that I could say that it’s my favorite – really, how can anyone pick? – but it’s startlingly beautiful and challenging; maybe because it is challenging. Everything is changing.
Walking out, and I’m looking at the chaotic, gigantic cloudshapes sweeping and stacking and breaking apart and, being a penitent hack of a writer, I’m thinking how there’s no way to describe this experience well. The experience, the look, and the feel of being out here, walking in Autumn is too big a thing to carve up into words. There’s too many contradictions happening all at once: the violence of the winds, the majesty of the skies, the putrescent decay of old field mushrooms, the fresh tang of pine in the back of my throat.
There’s a thing that all of us depressives know (that community of unmoored souls, I think someone once called it) which is: that we don’t have feelings. Feelings have us. Even more so – that feelings and emotions can be like seas or skies; landscapes and seasons that we drift through.
It reminds me of those autumnal skies, full of contradiction, full of beauty and grace and tragedy all rolled into one.
In my younger years I was once offered the antiseptic opportunity to have Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Of course, being a young man with a skin too thin I agreed. But I didn’t get on with it. Through the course of the sessions (with a very nice psychotherapist, it has to be said) I discovered ways to rate feelings and to categorize my experience into helpful or not helpful, bad on a scale of 1-10, and so on.
I think why I never jelled with the therapy was because of that structural approach – that this feeling or experience could be diminished and codified into such handy units when actually, the emotions were skies and landscapes.
Maybe it’s my age talking, or maybe autumn brings out the melancholic in me, but I find myself hovering around that notion of the multi-layered, contradictory, dynamic and living sky when it comes to thinking both about autumn and the interior psyche.
There is a deep sense of….(peace?) (acceptance?) (awareness?) that comes from letting yourself walk with emotions and not forcing yourself to pick at them too much. Like the way that the autumnal light changes from austere to radiant in shifts, there are layers and textures in any season of the heart which are subtle and too easily missed. Beneath that melancholic occupation there is also that unmistakable tang of old joy and even a sort of comfort in knowing that your heart is open.