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something wicked this way comes

October 2, 2009

I love the fall. Typically, there is relief that the blinding sun and blistering heat of summer is gone. And typically, I enjoy the energy (urgency) created by the fear of what’s ahead: darkness and ghosts and ice. Almost every year, I determine, in true harvest spirit, to get as much done as I can. Store up enough good beginnings to get me through winter.

But something is different this fall. Maybe it’s because summer didn’t feel like summer. August was green and cool. Unrecognizable. I missed spring entirely, of course, and it will forever be the season my mother died. I missed winter before that, consumed by her illness and the traveling and her bedside. When I retrace my steps over the past two or three years, I notice that at no time was I aware of the seasons.

Living in the Northeast, seasons are generally hard to miss. They announce themselves rather dramatically. They insist you pay attention. They insist you prepare. To miss the cues means you must be living in an alternate universe, a place from which the passing of time or changes in the atmosphere are imperceptible. I have been lost in this way. I am disoriented.

I’ve been asking myself for weeks, “What’s wrong with you? Where is your fall energy burst? Why are you being so forgetful? Why can’t you get anything done? Where is your creativity?” And this is the answer: I am disoriented, and it’s beginning to feel ominous.

“Beware the autumn people. … For some, autumn comes early, stays late, through life … with no winter, spring or revivifying summer. For these beings, fall is the only normal season, the only weather, there be no choice beyond. Where do they come from? The dust. Where do they go? The grave. Does blood stir their veins? No, the night wind. What ticks in their head? The worm. What speaks through their mouth? The toad. What sees from their eye? The snake. What hears with their ear? The abyss between the stars. They sift the human storm for souls, eat flesh of reason, fill tombs with sinners. They frenzy forth. In gusts they beetle-scurry, creep, thread, filter, motion, make all moons sullen, and surely cloud all clear-run waters. The spider-web hears them, trembles—breaks. Such are the autumn people. Beware of them.” (Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes)

I always think of Ray Bradbury in October. I admire how he explores darkness, so artfully making it collide with every day waking life in a way that makes both the life-force and the death-force extraordinary. It is the tension between them that thrills and delights. We need the power to shift in order to notice it. Seasons help us pay attention. So does trauma. So does intense joy.

I need to become sensitive to changing light again. I need to inhale air and feel its temperature in my nasal cavity. I need to notice a chill on my skin, know how to fix it (blanket. sweater.) and settle into a comfortable warmth. I need to get back into the world.

If I can be “present” for them, two things help me get my bearings (though I’ve zoned-out for them the last couple years): Halloween and the first cover-the-ground snowfall. Halloween is around the corner, thank goodness. It’s entertaining to me to watch everyone spend October looking for monsters. I see them all year. I see them all the time. Mine. Yours. Ours.

It’s as though Halloween is tourist season in my brain. Sure, tourists are annoying. Sure, they’re not always on their best behavior. But sometimes “crowded” is better than “desolate.” It’s nice to have company sometimes. Even if they’re just playing at it, October ghost hunters make it a little more lively, a little less lonely.

The trouble with Jim was he looked at the world and could not look away. And when you never look away all your life, by the time you are thirteen you have done twenty years taking in the laundry of the world. (Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes)

Do you ever calculate your life in dog years or cat years? What about Halloween years? How old are you?

NOTE: Just as with yesterday’s post, my thoughts remain unfocused, foggy. I’m trying to be hopeful that something will crystallize from these ramblings and be useful to me. I’d hate to think I was rambling for its own sake.

  1. October 2, 2009 5:30 pm

    Delightful post! (Ok. I do have a markedly morbid side that rejoices in fall-ness. But still.)

    Thank you for the Bradbury — I’d forgotten that work, those words. Perfect. You post reminds me of my own thoughts about things like this — the recollection that I was a “Wednesday’s child, full of woe” and the insistence all my life that it was my birth day that made me a sensitive and moody.

    (Sorry to “me, me, me” in your post. 🙂 )

    One of my favorite holidays is Halloween, and I always wish I wasn’t so lazy to not do it up big. Make the house a freak house for the neighborhood kids. Lately I’ve loved Day of the Dead stuff, too, and wished I was connected, culturally, to a festival that picnics in graveyards. But then, I live 1,500 miles from my close family and their graves.

  2. October 2, 2009 5:35 pm

    and i’m a “thursday’s child.” “she has far to go.” sigh.

    isn’t that funny that my day of the week birth has always been important to me, too? i’ve never believed i’d make it anywhere. and by “make it” i mean “survive.” and by “make it” i mean “succeed.” all of it. i always believed i was sentenced to a life of trying, trying, trying and never arriving anywhere.

    and i have it on good information that the next RWP mini-challenge will be good for this sort of monstrous thinking. 🙂 so keep these thoughts and turn them into a poem.

  3. October 2, 2009 8:54 pm

    Ever read any of Georg Trakl’s poems? The book-length translation of his work that I own is titled Autumn, and with good reason: autumnal themes permeate his work. He was definitely one of Bradbury’s autumn people.

    As for me, I am a winter person.

  4. October 3, 2009 9:11 am

    Carolee, fall is my opening time. I crave the first cool breezes and early darkening. And Halloween because it’s the beginning of Austin’s season of lights – we put them up for Halloween and they don’t come down until the New Year.

    I hadn’t thought of Bradbury in years, but with him and Stephen King, the autumn is that quiet, unsettling time that brings peace. I stop feeling as if I’m about to jump out of my skin.

    So my life is measured in “fall” years.

  5. October 5, 2009 6:40 am

    Rambling? This is magnificent writing. It’s already a poem.

    I’m with Pamela, though: in my own personal calendar, Fall is the beginning time. I feel about it the way most people seem to feel about Spring.

  6. October 5, 2009 11:15 am

    a poem? haven’t you heard? i don’t write poems anymore. difficult, obnoxious things they are, and so i won’t be hanging around with them anymore. 🙂

    i’ve always thought of september in the way other people think of new year’s.

  7. October 5, 2009 6:50 pm

    Looked back and realized you said that. & this Fall was different. I’m sorry about that.

    I’m sorry to keep being contradictory, Ms Carolee, but neglecting to put in line breaks doesn’t mean you haven’t written a poem 🙂

  8. October 5, 2009 9:10 pm

    thank you dale. she seems to be getting a little fresh, our carolee! not write poems anymore. my foot!

    i am a wednesday’s child, too. and that always bothered me. i used to ask my mother to make sure she was right, that it really was a wednesday. woe. the woe.

    this blog post is definitely poetry. it’s so thoughtful. my first thought while reading was, “this is what blogging is all about.” this could be an article somewhere. well, i mean, somewhere besides here. where maybe they would pay you!

    so here we all are, fall lovers. lovers of ghosts and dead things. what to do what to do?

  9. October 5, 2009 9:14 pm

    back when i was writing poems, i wrote a poem about my name and my birth day and year. that kind of stuff (the predictions, not the poems) are interesting to me.

    i don’t know if i’d ever have pegged you, jill, as a wednesday child. hmmmm. something to think about. 🙂

  10. October 5, 2009 9:27 pm

    you see? i’m sure my mom is lying. and i think i’m older than she says. i used to tell people i was adopted from traveling gypsies (is there a day for crazy child?) so, maybe it’s true after all.

    or, maybe i just hide the woe well.

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