Sunday, October 7, 2012

Diving into a pile of leaves

"Matt Pond PA on repeat in my headphones, a scarf pooling around my neck, and my cheeks chilled to a familiar pink from the walk home. Fall is here."

This time last year, I dashed off that quick line capturing my personal heralds of autumn in a very tangible moment. This year, as autumn begins to saturate everything from trees to bakeries to the air itself, I'm taking more time to let it saturate me, too.

Seattle was made keenly aware of the end of summer last week as we were suddenly greeted by colder, gray-clear mornings and the dry, papery whisper of leaves on concrete, a sound as identifiable with fall as sleigh bells are with snow. I pulled on boots instead of slipping into flip-flops. I sheathed my fading summer arms in sweater sleeves, armed myself with coffee and good music, and walked a little more quickly than I had in a few sun-slowed months. 

Last week, I started my position tutoring ESL with the community college nearby, a few mid-morning to mid-day hours a week. The walk home is short and downhill, making it all too easy to get lost in a Think and arrive at my door before I realize it's been fifteen minutes. When the obligation following my tutoring session on Wednesday was cancelled, I let myself wander along longer route home. I stopped to sit in the bleary light in Tashkent Park, a tiny pocket of grass and maple trees hidden in a block of quiet apartments.

"Semurg" Bird of Happiness statue in Tashkent Park

My neighborhood of Capitol Hill is littered with many such half-acres, each feeling like a discovery every time I visit them. On this visit, I was alone, and in the brick-lined silence, I felt autumn more fully than I had expected, and with it, a surprising combination of simple love, cold sunshine, and acute sadness. Confused, I looked up at the park's statue - a Tashkent boy flying on three Birds of Happiness, a gift from Seattle's sister city in Uzbekistan. I studied the boy's dull bronze features, followed the lines of the not-particularly-happy-looking birds, scanned the trees behind them, all the while searching my mind for a reason for the sadness. It didn't take me long to understand.

If all goes as planned, this will be my last autumn in Seattle, at least for the foreseeable future. I love this city; Seattle feels like home, and autumn is when I find it most beautiful and most... well, home. And as much as I am thrilled/anxious/excited for my next adventure, I am so, so sad to be leaving this place.

This year, I will throw myself into autumn like a child diving into pile of leaves. Pumpkin muffins and cookies will bake in my oven; their scent will fill my nose and warm my apartment. I'll soak myself in the everywhere-color and brush my fingers over the delicate geometry of dahlias and chrysanthemums. I'll wrap myself in too-long scarves and fill as much daylight as I can with walks down my street, the mornings gently spiced by the smell of crushed leaves under my boots. And I will miss it when I am gone.

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