"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun...
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?"
- John Keats, To Autumn
There's a certain smell of autumn in England, redolent of the gentle rot of fallen leaves in the chill damp. This is a childhood-nostaliga moment for me, going out to be greeted with this scent, it's one of the things I miss about living in Davis, where leaves are swept up or blown away almost the moment they fall.
Yes, I'm back in Nottingham, and somewhat ahead of schedule. Christine and I were supposed to be coming out the first week of November, but rapid deterioration in my mother's health has led me to come out early. Autumn was ever for me the season of itchy feet - the call of the road, the desire to be elsewhere, but this elsewhere, in these circumstances, wasn't what I had in mind. My feet are eager for travel, but it's the road back home to my new family that I want to wend - Christine and Tess are still in the US, and I miss 'em.
There's not a lot to recommend watching someone you love slipping away - although it's better than missing them altogether. I missed my father's passing, because I wasn't told of his death until after the funeral. I'm still hurt, angry and haven't yet been able properly to grieve, and eager to avoid that pain this time around.
Of course, I knew that Mum was dying - fighting the effects of diabetes for forty-odd years had taken their toll, not to mention peritoneal dialysis following a major kidney infection over ten years ago, and increasing blindness and deafness, followed by the final blow which was the loss of her best friend, companion and husband of 53 years. This coup de non-grâce happened in June, just four months ago, and bless her, she was already weak and vulnerable.
Hospitals being the places they are, I would sit with her for a couple of hours, then slip outside to escape the stink of hospital, and surround myself with greenery. The City Hospital in Nottingham is well served with lawns and trees, and even a cricket pitch, for goodness' sake, so it was easy to find quite green spaces to surround myself with while I meditated. It was during one of these mini-retreats that I found a wounded dwarf willow tree (oddly enough, next to the aforementioned cricket pitch). Cricket being a summer sport, there was no thwack of leather on willow, but I was content to sit by this tiny tree and cogitate as the sun slipped toward the roof-muddled horizon.
Now perhaps I should explain at this point that I'm something of a pagan on the quiet, and it seemed to me to be a good opportunity to enact a small personal ritual to ground myself, relieve some of the stress and regain some of my lost strength. I called the corners to make myself a small circle, and offered prayers of a sort to The Goddess and the Green Man. Anyone who doubts the power of meditation and prayer should come to me for details - I felt stronger, settled and more balanced afterward. I left a copy of the prayer under the tree, in among the shed leaves, waiting for spring and the bursting of its expectant catkins.
She died peacefully just under an hour ago as I write these words, and I have to say it's a relief and a loss. There's no song of Spring in my heart, just a dull drone. But the songbirds of my soul will make melody again.
Mother Goddess, Spirit of the Forests, be within me and help me to keep growing, even through this winter in my soul
I know that I hold within me the hope of new life, that spark which Spring will green again.
For my mother Patricia, whom I love, who gave me life and nurture.
Thank you all for your support and responses.
Special thanks to Albert Herring and Shelagh.