Oregon settled into Autumn much like she settled into Summer, with the intention on making everyone around her very happy. The earth is preparing for change; parts of her are dying, like the leaves that float to the ground and cover the sidewalks surrounding my apartment; this place I don’t own; this place I don’t share with Cher. Our home is sold and I patiently await closing, so I can gently place one more connection into its grave. Coyotes live near the Tualatin River behind me, and they snatch little unprotected and unaware cats and dogs, dismantling their bodies and leaving parts behind to rot. Ginger sniffs the yellow and orange ground; can she smell their death? Does it linger in the thick, moist air carrying with it a healthy dose of fear? She pays no mind to the squirrels and blue jays who hop around as we walk; they scurry to gather food before it’s gone, making popping noises in the trees where they hide for the upcoming winter; they don’t mind Ginger either.
I don’t recall a fall quite as lovely as this, except for nineteen years ago when Mikayla was born. I sat in Good Samaritan Hospital and watched the colors blanket the affluent homes dotted over Portland’s West Hills; if I had been allowed to go outside, I would have smelled the crispness in the air mixed with the sweet smell of decay, and I couldn’t have imagined the meanderings my life would take. Part of me died that fall; I became a mother and whomever I was before that moment ceased to exist; she faded away just like the clear blue northwest sky that will soon be covered in grey, hiding our majestic Mt. Hood behind the wet clouds only revealing her white pointed breast as a pleasant surprise. Nineteen sets of seasons passed, and now my child is an adult college student making her own life and mine is beginning again too. Seasons redefine, reset, and rejoice in their newness: winter is for hibernation, spring is for new life, summer is for growth and fall is for death and preparation for resurrection. The Autumn Solstice marked the first day of the last season I must survive in my recovery. Four seasons mark completion, and on the Winter Solstice, it will be one year since Cher left. I’ve traveled through these months with my eyes unwrapped and fixed on finishing this task. God created the earth in seven days; the Hebrews wandered in the desert for forty; my heart will heal in 365. Four seasons finish the cycle for me to become someone new.
Yesterday I saw a turkey. She sat on the metal fence that separates my apartment complex from the old RV park next door. I heard her rustle in the leaves and assumed she was one of the tame squirrels that sit and watch me when I walk by. I looked to see her sitting there, then she jumped off and clucked, or gobbled, or made some kind of bird noise before flitting off into the field. Native American’s viewed turkeys as symbols of abundance and fertility. The turkey displays anxiety when he or she senses a change in the weather and many Native America tribes watched for this behavior as a sign of what was to come. The Sioux used four turkey feathers in certain rituals to represent the four winds. Four Winds: Four Seasons. Benjamin Franklin lamented to his daughter that he wished the turkey would have been chosen as the national bird instead of the Bald Eagle. The eagle is mostly a scavenger and Franklin didn’t see this as an honest way to obtain food; turkeys are omnivores and the eat plants and small insects. Turkeys are considered brave and courageous. They are also symbols of pride, abundance, generosity, awareness, virility, fertility, and sacrifice.
“When the turkey visits us it is a sign that we must be mindful of the blessings bestowed upon us each day. Further, it is a message to express our strength and brilliance – it’s time to show our own plumage and reveal true selves” (Animal Symbolism).
Autumn blessings are all around me right now. Everything that could go right in my life is, and I am harvesting what I planted long ago during that very dark and sad spring. While I reap, I am mindful of what is around me and the endings that must continue to occur before there are new beginnings and continue to prepare for the next cycle of life. I’m changed and still changing, but who I will become has yet to be determined. It’s all part of the process. Rebirth follows dying, and the last parts of the old me are dying alongside the life around me. I connect to what perishes and take it in like the air I breathe, filling my lungs with understanding: life stops, and soon it will all start again.