Going Dark

And just like that, it’s over. The shrieking voices, the jubilant splashes, the shrill drone of motor boats slicing through waves. The aroma of cut grass and grilled meat. That cacophony of sensations vanishes. Sometimes the door of summer is slammed shut and locked. The sun is consumed by gloom and the rains begin. Sometimes it’s gently closed, a gradual recession into darkness. This year it’s left ajar. The sunshine persists. The rains, when they come, are warm. The forest seems unsure how to act. Where are the bright reds that are usually the first to appear? Instead, the aspens are the first to draw inward. Their leaves brown and wither and are cast off.

September is for us, is what the locals say. There’s always one last. One last barbecue, one last swim in the lake, one last sunset at Sturgeon Bay. For me, it’s not one last, but one more. I savor my final long hikes, mesmerized by the rasp of dead leaves under my feet. What a privilege it is to live here.

It is time to go dark, fall silent, immerse myself in the beautiful melancholy of my beloved autumn. Season of surrender, hard truths, letting go. Of relentless remembrance. I draw my light inward. I wander through the many chambers of my heart, switching off the lights and shutting doors in some, so that it can glow brighter in others. The levels of access are now clearly defined. Those who aren’t already in the innermost realms have little chance of getting in.

The bronze-tinted sunlight of Indian Summer contrasts with the inky black fog that seeps into my being. Tread gently here, little one. You’ve navigated this dark realm so many times before. The pain just means that your heart is alive. Ride it out. Breathe. Allow yourself to grieve.

Remember: the way a person treats you is a reflection of that individual, not you. Remember this. Again and again. Until the light illuminates the abyss and you find your way out again.

Remember: we carry everything within us: past, present, future. Do the lessons we go through truly make us stronger, or is that what we tell ourselves so that we keep going? Memories are constant companions tripping us up, holding us back, but also urging us on. Remember the pain so that you don’t allow it to happen ever again. Remember, then let go. Move into the now. Move on.

Turn towards the future. Envision, crystallize. In order to get what you deserve, you need to believe that it exists. You’ve done it before. Look at this place you call home. You knew, many years ago, that you would have this little cabin. Become the solitary woman in the wilderness. The shy black rabbit who now shares your life appeared in your dreams, remember? Her garnet-colored eyes and shimmering blue-black fur. Raven. You recognized her immediately.

Grand accomplishments and little details. I deserve this and so much more.

I lie in bed at night and gaze out the window. Where once I saw fireflies dance and lightning flash, stars glitter through naked branches. When you let go, Heaven shines through. I burrow deep under the covers. Thoughts flow through my mind.

A flashback to Prague. It was spring. I was walking home from the Smichov metro station after work. One of those episodes I sometimes get, dare I call them visions, took hold. I was in a crowd of shadows, interspersed with rare lights. Some shined bright and clear. Others were intermittent and some were dim. I was one of the lights. And I understood. Some of us are beacons. Not for the shadows, but for each other. To reassure each other that we’re not alone.

Those of us who come into existence with a gift have some obligation to share it. I have fulfilled that contract. Now I long for deeper realms of silence.

The majority my days are spent deflecting chatter. Everyone has returned to work. I am pleasant, but distant. No one notices. How easy it is to slip away from invitations and conversations. The sharing of memes and videos and articles. Something called TikTok is what’s cool now, I’m told. Here, Julie, look at this funny video. A polite glance and a stifled grimace, as the broadcast of desperation unfolds on the tiny screen.

So many empty souls clamoring to be seen, but terrified to look in the mirror. Oblivious to the technological wasteland in which they are imprisoned. The person who most needs to see you is your Self. The point of looking in the mirror is not to see the good or the bad, but to see the truth. It’s never too late to reclaim yourself. Don’t be afraid.

October. The deer go into hiding. Camo-clad humans lumber through the woods. I send a prayer out to the young buck and the little sister he watches over. They are frequent visitors to Ravenwood. It got to the point where they stopped fleeing when they saw me. The last time we saw each other, he approached me, tail and ears twitching with curiosity. I stood very still and smiled until his instinct took over and they bounded away. Together. Always together.

I clothe myself in orange and stick to well-used trails or my brother Grant’s vast property. At least one bear calls his land home. A mischievous smile lights up my face as I remember the immense blackberry patch I stumbled into while hiking last summer. I was greeted by a meaty gasp, shuddering bushes, and the retreat of a massive body. It was either Bigfoot or a bear that I had just startled. “Sorry,” I called out with a giggle, not even surprised at my complete lack of fear.

But that doesn’t mean I want to sneak up on one again. I clap my hands and sing as I sweep my eyes over the trees, searching for autumn treasure. A lump forms in my throat when I find it. A careful extraction from the bark, leaving some behind for next year. I stroll back to my car, my heart aglow.

Weeks after the official peak, after the leaf peepers from Ohio and other southern territories have gone home, the show begins.

Forest ablaze in a controlled burn. Leaves drift to the ground like embers. And now a cold wind stirs the ashes of brighter days. Summer’s butterfly flutter becomes autumn’s phoenix. It spreads its wings and ascends.