Fall Equinox

The week of the equinox I keep taking photos of my cut tomatoes, trying (and failing) to capture what they are before they’re gone. Their catacomb whorls of sweet seed and juice have ruined me for the market’s bland offerings, finally convincing me that tomatoes are, indeed, a fruit. 

In the morning dark of autumn’s first full day, I read Kooser poems* in bed. Under low lamplight I meet his parents and grandparents, and I think:  I know these people. I used to live in their world. I had a great-grandmother who wore boxy black shoes, and a father who smelled of Old Spice. I lived at their slow pace, in a place where a woman might throw rainbows from a basin of used dishwater. 

When I was a girl, I believed that one day I would understand how we all make our place in the world. When I was a young teacher, a young mother, I thought I did. I was wrong (but not entirely).

What should I wish for my children? The more I live, the less I am sure of. 

This week I gave my students an assignment to read the academic standards to which we will all be held accountable. “What is a ‘grade level band of text complexity’?” they asked, their tongues tripping over familiar stones arranged into an unfamiliar pattern. 

I laid the system of my classroom bare and invited them to choose how they will operate within it. “What does it mean to you, to do well in school?” I asked. They live in a viral world of devious licks and Likes, but also one in which a person might grow their own food. 

Later, after the sky lightens, I let the dog into the backyard and pick pears from our tree. Fruit fallen onto the sun-scorched grass is half-eaten, and I wonder what kind of animal we are feeding. When I wash my lunch dishes at the sink, warm water running over my hands, I think of a woman I once worked with who always washed her dishes with cold. “Hot water is too expensive,” she told me. I was in college, and it had never occurred to me that a person could wash with anything other than warm or that heat could cost too much. I remember her as happy, in love with her children.

What does it mean to live well? I type later, sitting in a chair at a table in front of a window, in the middle of a day in which I could choose to do anything, or nothing.  

The closer I get to the end, the more I find answers in memory, in poetry, in tomatoes.

*Delights and Shadows

****

It has been a beautiful week in my part of the world. We are definitely feeling the shorter days, which helps us to savor the evening light. A bit of rain has returned some green to the garden, and we’re happy to leave August’s dull, brittle dust in the rearview of this year.

We’re settling into our school year routines. I’m still finding my way to ones that will work for my new situation. It’s a matter of composing and adjusting my thoughts as much as my actions. I’m living in some space between working and retired (though let me tell you: I am definitely working), which isn’t what I mentally prepared for and is something for which I don’t really have models. So much of what determines our feelings is based on what we expect. Originally I had hoped to contain my work to the days I actually teach, but that’s a goal not yet within reach. I think I can get there. Maybe. I’m trying to let go of the ideas I once had and just experience the things that come at me each day, let myself be open to all the things that each might be.

This week had a bit more ease than the last, despite having our first instances of students being out on quarantine. One of my classes was missing nearly a quarter of its students the last time we met, and it changed the whole dynamic of the room. The week before, one of our partner high schools closed entirely for 10 days because they had four positive cases but were unable to determine close contacts due to a lack of sound protocols. Things are both normal and not-normal simultaneously. I’m working hard not to gaslight my students, to walk a line between acknowledging what we’re dealing with and getting on with the business of learning in spite of what’s changed and changing. (My colleagues and I have adopted “pivot” as our word of the year.) When I shared with some students that the other English teachers and I had made an agreement to strive for no homework, their relief was palpable. I’ve already fallen in love with my students, and I feel fiercely protective of them. I’ve been thinking hard about what is essential and what is not, which came out in the writing above.

I hope the first week of the new season brings good things to you, whatever that means for you. I would love to hear how things are in your part of the world.

8 thoughts on “Fall Equinox

  1. TD says:

    It’s good to hear that you are enjoying your new situation, even though you haven’t achieved your expectation of work time and work effort (yet).

    As far as my part of the world? I’m trying to accept all that is going on around me. Including uncertainty.

    I have completed my work on redesign of my financial situation. I’m sure I make mistakes along my life journey. I am now seeing that some decisions that I felt like I made a mistake wasn’t a mistake at all. My financial budget will, no doubt, be difficult. Yet, I think (uncertain) I will manage.

    My hope is that I live simple enjoying the freedom of my time to relax and take it easy for a change. The equinox set my energy into motion rearranging furniture to adjust with the natural light of all the windows for viewing, cooling and heating. I’ve been detailing cleaning floors and furniture removal of all the Saharan Dirt and Coastal Dust that bombarded our cottage. Now, I’m helping Yorkie with her uncertainty of all the chaos of her four pound world and showing her where her beds are and her stuffed critters are safe!

    Enjoying fall as you are too!

    • Rita says:

      I love re-arranging and cleaning when the seasons change! We’re still in the midst of merging households, so things aren’t as tidy/settled as I like them to be, but that’s OK. I think it’s nice to make sure you’re maximizing light in the coming months. With our new mostly-glass front door, we get so much more daylight in our main living space, and it really changes the feel of the room.

      I hope you find that everything will work out OK. I was getting ready to make similar adjustments, and then I took my teaching job. I’m mostly glad about that, but some days (today was one of them) I wonder if I made the right choice, even though it would have meant financial adjustments. There’s something to be said for ease and freedom and living simply.

  2. TD says:

    Hi Rita. Me too, it’s refreshing to change into a new season. Adding glass to the front door was something I had wanted to do. Not that it’s needed for more light. I just think that glass doors are beautifully attractive and would compliment all the stain glass that I have through out the cottage.But here exterior doors must be installed with a hurricane certification. New city building codes on these very old properties have made so much required permitting. And pandemic created economic businesses downturn, to the point that it is extremely difficult to find workers. When I built my extra talk privacy security fence, my contractor pushed it to the max just short of needing a city permit. I’m glad because the fence is the best property improvement that I chose to do. I love the extra large backyard and Saulto tile patio with great private space. I call it princess lulu’s price park for Yorkie. Small city focus is only on tourism.

    I remember my second marriage that I had to give away or donate half my furniture to add the new husband’s furniture to the patio home that I owned. I was happy to let go because I was so in love and wanted my future with him in 2005, although our final divorced was two days before Christmas 2009. I helped him with cleaning his condo to sell and move into my home making it ours.

    Sounds similar to what you are doing. We both worked full time and managed to do it all. (Unfortunately the marriage came to an end. I have been unable to recover fully.)

    It’s great that you were able to add a glass door! And I certainly understand why you decided to take the teaching opportunity. It is something to try out and you may always change your mind. (I reserve my right to change my mind!!) For this semester it may be adding just enough income to assist with the balance of merging life together and eventually to transfer to full retirement for you. I worry about the virus for you and new husband in the school work environment.

    I so much appreciate my time as my time! Do not miss working. For me there are more pros than cons of what I want with whatever life I have left. Thank you for your hopes that the cottage will all work out! (I reserve my right to change my mind!! Who knows maybe I will sell again to smaller easier maintenance, eventually.

    Your writing reflects so much honeymoon and in love emotions. Smile’s are all over your writing.

    • Rita says:

      I didn’t learn the power that comes from knowing you can change your mind until I was well into my 40s. Life-changing, isn’t it? Sometimes, of course, you can’t–we can more than many of us grew up believing. It’s a thing I reminded myself of when I took the teaching job. I won’t change it this year, but the commitment was for only a year.

      I’m sorry about your divorce. I think I know a lot about how that must feel. If Cane and I hadn’t been able to work our way back to the relationship we now have, I think the loss of what we once had might have been something I would never have really gotten over. It’s so hard when a second chance doesn’t go the way we hope it will, isn’t it? I’m glad, though, that you have found a place that feels right for you and that there are more pros than cons in your life today.

  3. TD says:

    Life feels like we both have found a place that feels manageable for now. Last week’s evening before I went to sleep, I watched the Harvest Moon rise from the front window of my sunroom and the next morning on my routine to make coffee, I watched the moon set in my kitchen corner window. This will be a lovely season ahead of us both!

  4. Leilani says:

    Such savory words. i hear you on not having models for whatever junction it is we are living. I will live vicariously through you as you enjoy the last of your beautiful harvest!

  5. Kate says:

    “What should I wish for my children? The more I live, the less I am sure of. “ THIS. So much this.

    We’ve had unseasonably warm October weather and my tomato plants are looking quite haggard but are still producing summer gems. One good frost and they’ll be done, but I sure am enjoying the extra.

    Hope no post this week means you are busy with good things and enjoying the sweet and savory.

    • Rita says:

      Ah, just saw this. I guess I have been busy with good things. And no words knocking at the door of my head. Thank you for checking.

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