I’ve been sad lately, for no apparent reason. It’s not depression or overwork or fatigue—just a wistfulness tossed across the days, landing over my lap like one of Great-Grandma’s homemade afghans. It’s a comfort but heavier than I need right now. Also, it carries not only weave and color but a lot of memories. Yes, I’m feeling the weight of time collapsed, and it causes a sort of soulful adrenalin to kick in.
It’s the weather. Autumn is still nearly a month away, but already the atmosphere is giving off signals: summer is waning. The barometric pressure shifts, the sunlight slides differently over the day. The insects fill the night with their own sad songs. I don’t sleep well. I keep waking up to the intensity of trees moving just inches from the window screens. Ripe, restless life is everywhere; the season has filled and overflows now—into over-thick foliage and seediness. The air goes faintly sour with the beginnings of decay that will take over the landscape in a few short weeks.
Late summer and early autumn have always been regathering times for me. The subtle changes in the wind and underfoot play tricks on me. Suddenly my senses don’t know what year it is. Am I about to start fifth grade? Is this Chicago or my hometown back in Kansas? Are those college textbooks piled on the sofa? That woman I just glimpsed on the street—is she someone I know from my present life, or is she one of my teachers from senior year in high school? The physical senses don’t seem to care what time it is; they only understand the season.
And, perhaps because time gets all mixed up and I am confronted abruptly with every other era of my life, and with all the people from those eras, I must confront as well the basic person I am and the true longings in my heart. Those things don’t change much, if at all, though the years rush by.
I find myself wanting in multiple ways during this regathering time. I want to be kinder and not have difficult relationships to look back on. I want to appreciate those I love with more consistency and passion. I want to organize my stuff so that it doesn’t clutter my life. I want to understand my ultimate purposes with more clarity and move in their energy rather than in the energy of anger or anxiety.
I want to live well. I want to hold all lovely things with gentleness and grace. I want to shine with Divine everything. When sensing the arc of an entire life, even the parts not yet lived, I long more than ever for God-ness in all its forms: awareness of God, peace with God, love for God, a place in the great creation and family of God.
Such longing is dangerous to an ordinary life, because for awhile I believe that there’s nothing ordinary about living in this world. During late summer and early autumn, for a brief time I know my power and greatness. I understand what it is to be priceless. A night wind stirs in the room, and it’s obvious that a portion of the wind’s meaning lies in my own resting form. A rose shrivels and droops, and I feel its death move through me. On a cool morning I nearly weep because right then I long for everything in the world—for all the cities and rivers and lovers and songs. I long and long and long.
Because of all this, my productivity at home and at work is riddled with pauses and sighs these days. I don’t fight this. It’s a worthy longing I feel, a true movement of the soul—the remembrance of beginnings and endings, the pulling together of distant pieces and phrases.
For all I know, I am more myself now than at any other time. I am more honest about what I love, and I am more willing to let the world see who I am. And so the bittersweet regathering, the seasonal great longing, is allowed.
Copyright © 2009 Vinita Hampton Wright