Life feels new to me today. We closed our play last night, you see (and this word, “closed” makes it seem a Much Bigger Deal than it was, as it only ran two nights. But we are, for now, a small school), and so the day feels less compressed, less hemmed-in than the last weeks and days have been.
As I told you last time, O Reader, the week was going to be an intense one, and this proved to be every bit true. I haven’t been home before ten p.m. since time out of mind (though I’m pretty sure I got home before that on Tuesday), and the days themselves have been frought with bought time– two extra school-time hours granted for rehearsal, treks back and forth from the school to the performance cite and then home again, props carefully counted and then gone missing, last-minute run-throughs and lines that were just too hard and a pretty certain sense that, despite all our work and preparation, we just hadn’t had enough time. On Monday morning we all found ourselves longing for the end of the week, for the last line delivered on Saturday night, for the cast party that would ensue at Champps restaurant. We all wanted it to be Over.
Time is a strange thing, don’t you think so, Reader? Time and, while we’re at it, Life. How is it that these two basic elements go, for the most part, utterly unmarked? I mean, we name it with dates and times, count hours and minutes– but to what end? We swim in Time and Life like fish in water, taking them (mostly) completely for granted. Yes, we are living– and what’s for dinner? Yes, time is flying– which means it’s time to be thinking about Christmas. There isn’t Time– and Life is too big– to reflect on things.
This is certainly– especially lately– my experience.
I had been noticing, however and lately, North Carolina’s failure (once again) to please me on the weather front. It’s a common refrain with me. October acted Way Too Much like June for my taste. We did have some chilly days, and the nights definitely became colder. But for all this, things remained relatively green– an affront to my sensibilities that I, for obvious reasons, didn’t make time to complain about.
The trees are not supposed to be green in October. I don’t care what you say. October is The Month for the color to come, for the hillsides to be set on fire, for the light to fall– unhindered by humidity– on the flats and edges of leaves all gold and red and orange. What I found instead (so disappointing), was Mostly Green, and the occasional tree that reminded me somehow of something standing over a drain: leaves around me had chlorophyll valves that had decidedly been shut off; their green had seeped and seeped away; their sere leaves now flapped in lifeless dun and grey.
Autumn, for all its beauty, is a kind of death, yes? Take the beauty away and one wonders if it’s worth it.
Yes, last Sunday’s leaves were still mostly green. Is it always like this, I wondered? Does the color change come in November here? Despite my fourteen years of living in the South, my plumb-line for the seasons is set by Northern expectations.
Then Monday came with grey and rainy skies. It was Cold. And Tuesday dawned the same way. But the weather cleared on Tuesday afternoon, and I was in rehearsal until after dark. It was Wednesday that presented me with the change: color, color, color. The maple trees that line our backyard and, for nearly three seasons of the year, screen us from some neighbors, had turned their vibrant yellow. I remembered how it always is with those trees: in the early morning, when the sky takes on some light, they have a fierce glow about them so that, from the corner of your eye, you might be fooled into thinking that a bonfire burned back there, or the lights that surround a football field.
I didn’t really have time to take notice of the change, of course. I wasn’t outdoors much, for starters, but I did enjoy the leaves on my way to school in the mornings, and I did like to watch them (when I had time to look) from the windows of the school building. I didn’t see them on my way home again because my way home was– all week– after dark.
But this morning– this morning that feels so new and fresh and unhemmed– I sat with my cup of tea at the kitchen table and looked and looked out the window. The play, after an opening night that was, for all of us, somewhat of a Disappointment, went so well last night. So Well. The audience laughed in all the right places; they listened attentively enough to catch the many things that we all thought were So Funny; they laughed long enough that I rued my failure to teach my actors to wait (Wait!) until the laughter died down to say more. And my actors! Oh my. Last night they had a ball, and they ad-libbed, and they knew they had done an excellent job. It was worth it. Absolutely.
My face hurt from smiling so hard.
And this morning I didn’t go to church at all, but allowed myself to sleep as I needed to, so that I wasn’t sitting at the kitchen table with the tea until very nearly 10:30. Already the maple trees have put on their lacey dresses: the neighbor’s house between the trees begins to emerge. Occasional little gusts sent down their scattering of leaves and I saw that the lawn is covered.
Already? Already? Do we get only this week of vibrant color? If things proceed at this rate, the leaves will all be down by Wednesday, and I will study instead the architecture of the trees, the light along the bare branches.
It’s odd, perhaps, that we mark Life by Time. Maybe we’ve got that wrong. Maybe these months and weeks are an inappropriate standard that skew our perceptions and have us looking at the Wrong Thing.
Because this morning– this nameless, dateless morning– I watched some leaves take their only journey downward. I delighted in my daughter’s “tucking-in” of the kittens on her bed. I listened to Everett describe his planned invention of a diver’s glass-bottomed boat. And last night I watched my actors find out what they are capable of.
It is all Incredibly Beautiful.