“October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace!“Rainbow Rowell from the novel Attachments
Autumn is – by far – my favourite season. I love the cooler temperatures, the fresher air, the changing colours. Even though I haven’t been to school in years I still want my planners to start in September. I still buy myself new pens and other school-like supplies. September always seems like the start of all things good and the end of October feels like the real time to celebrate the new year.
Autumn is short where I live. I often joke that it starts in the middle of August here in Alberta but it’s a joke based in reality. The days can still be really hot but the air coming over the mountains is changing enough that the nights are getting cooler and the grass and leaves also start to get that first hint of yellow. People can complain all they want (and they do, is there anything people like to complain about more than the weather?) but I’ve found the only sane way to live in this world is to accept the seasons as they are for where you live. Just because the calendar says that a season changes on a certain date doesn’t mean anything. I mean, by December 21st we have usually had a month and a half of cold and snow so thinking that winter “starts” on that date is absurd.
This year we are having a long and glorious autumn. It may seem weird to you but it is really something that we haven’t had one snow storm yet – they don’t last but usually by this time the jokes about Snowtember or Snowtober have been made. Facebook memories recently showed me photos of the girls playing in the snow around this time last year.
Autumn in the time of Covid is a new experience. I think we are trying to hold on to it tighter than ever this year for fear of when the cold weather pushes us all indoors. It is still easy to get out and go for long walks and we have been traveling to the other edge of the city to take walks in Fish Creek Park. This is something I look forward to all week long. We walk, we look for deer, we spend time watching bees have afternoon naps in the warm autumn sun, we hang out near the river and stay off the main paths with the crazy cyclists who seem determined to run people down. The girls put their feet in the river and let the minnows nibble on their toes.
Fish Creek is a massive park that is still in the city so it feels like getting out of the city without actually having to drive for a couple hours. This time last year the only time I could go to a park is if someone would push me in my wheelchair. These days I can do a good 2 to 3 km walk (with stops to sit and enjoy just being outside). My feet hurt at the end of it and I’m often paying for it the next day (this is a symptom of my current chemotherapy) but it is a small price that I am very willing to pay. These days I want to experience as many parks as I can. We encourage the girls to spend as much time outside as possible with their friends because once the cold hits we will be inside and isolated again (unless we toughen ourselves up some more).
To be honest I barely remember autumn last year. I was so sick (had started IV chemo in August and it failed but I still had to endure many weeks of it and lost my hair again) and in a lot of pain. I’ve discovered something over the course of this past year though – another year of chemotherapy and multiple surgeries. Of many rounds of radiation and playing around with pain medications and going from being handicap to being active again knowing that this is all temporary. I’ve learned that I really need to take these good moments and celebrate them when I can. Really celebrate them.
I’ve learned that even though my disease is by definition “terminal” – until my oncologist tells me I am out of options and to go home and get my affairs in order then I am not dying. I’m still here. I’m the same woman I’ve always been – even if not every one can see that. I’m still here – which is exactly where I want to be.
Leave a comment and let me know what your favourite part of autumn is? It’s Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend and we are hoping to be able to do an outdoors version with our family where everyone brings their own food and then a small at-home celebration for the five of us. I feel like two celebrations makes good sense because we have a lot to be thankful for this year.