After the hottest summer we can remember in the Northwest, this year’s shift into fall is abrupt, a door slamming shut. Not the lingering, slow slide into fall of years past. Clouds moved in and took up residence. Temperatures dropped. Only then did I notice that the light had been slipping away all along. Gone the late afternoon swims followed by harvesting tomatoes for salad. Gone the lingering evenings over dinner on the deck. Hello fleece, oatmeal, ginger tea.
Once again the earth reminds us of change, impermanence. The last few weeks have brought a litany of natural disasters: Hurricane Harvey drenched Texas, Hurricane Irma slammed Florida; a devastating earthquake in Oaxaca, and yet another in Mexico City. More tragedies than we can take in, much less bear.
Several mornings ago, I turned on NPR, braced myself to hear about the children buried under the rubble, how many had died. But the commentator told us also of how the people responded, rushing into the rubble with buckets, forming human chains to rescue those still alive. With each tragedy, the darkness has been leavened by these acts of courage, of neighbors and communities pulling together. As one hurricane survivor noted, “FEMA won’t be here for weeks; we need to help each other now.”
Earlier this week I heard Kate de Gutes, friend and fellow alum from the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA program, read from her book that’s just been released from Two Sylvias Press: The Authenticity Experiment: Lessons from the Best and Worst Year of My Life. This collection came out of a blog Kate began as a 30-day challenge to be more authentic on social media. Inspired by a question poet Fleda Brown posted when she returned to Facebook after time off, asking her community how they felt “when they see nothing but curated posts full of pictures of risotto, fantastic family vacations, and lots of ‘Hail, fellow, well met!’” status updates, Kate thought “Yeah, we don’t like to talk about our dark on social media, do we. In fact, you could argue that we don’t like to talk about our dark at all. . . . Fleda made me wonder if I could tell the truth—the whole truth—on social media for thirty days.” Kate did just that, ending each short essay with #DarkAndLight, “because I hoped they showed the duality—the both/and, the dark/light—of life.”
As it turned out, the dark/light of life for Kate ended up being the death of her mother, her best friend, and her mentor, who all died within 10 months of each other. Even so, she found not only that it was possible to write the truth, but that others appreciated it. Not surprisingly, if you know Kate’s writing, she soon had a following on her blog, then a book contract with Two Sylvias Press.
Fall dredges up bittersweet emotions, and this fall, with so much turmoil in the world, the emotional chaos promises to be even greater. As we head into fall in uncertain times, let’s remember what equinox promises: with darkness comes light; with light comes darkness. They’re inexorably linked, a Mobius strip.
So, as the days grow shorter, make it a practice to be grateful for the glimmers of light, wherever you find them, whether the blazing corona of the eclipse or a stray act of kindness. Equally, as you’re sharing what’s going on in your life—in whatever form that takes—remember the power of authenticity; remember to share the darkness that tempers the light and connects us all. Just as Kate rose to the challenge, so, too, can you.
Yours in dark and light,