Monday, October 29, 2007

One Fall Day

My God it’s beautiful outside today. About 65 degrees, no clouds, and so bright that when I close my eyes, I can still see the brilliant-colored trees behind our house. The sunlight has such a warm glow, God must be gazing directly upon our tiny speck of Midwestern prairie. And yet the air is crisp, like the first bite of a freshly picked apple. A slight breeze delivers both the smell of fallen leaves, and the brittle rustling sound of those who still cling to their branches.

Fall has long been my favorite season. Always a few weeks too short though. Never as picturesque as I imagine, the chorus of color never quite perfectly timed. Fall usually puts me in a slightly melancholy mood too, triggering a deeper search for metaphor and meaning in the change of season. For the past three years, fall has felt bittersweet. Beautiful as ever, but tinged with notions of decay and impending loss. I am like the leaf, clinging to life on my branch, trying desperately to reveal my true colors before the inevitable gust of wind arrives and forces me to move on.

But learning to live amidst life and death has been a key part of my path to acceptance of both ALS and my mortality. I’ve realized that imperfection can and should be embraced. Death and decay are a natural part of the landscape. To ignore them is folly, to merely acknowledge them is reckless and myopic. So this year I’m learning to not only savor the beauty of radiant trees, but to delight in the barren ones as well. I’m choosing to revel in the juxtaposition of good and bad in the landscape of my life. Besides, fall isn’t really about dying. It’s about making way for rebirth. In that spirit, I intend to be battling ALS while still basking in the warm glow of sunlight with our new baby next spring. Much like Eva and I are doing on this fine fall day.

Special Note: Two friends of mine are currently fighting to stay alive with apparently incurable cancers. Ken and Mike, here’s to the three of us living another gorgeous day, still clinging to our branches.


Kathy Swanson said...

Scott, you write so beautifully -- this blog is a wonderful gift to all who read it.

It reminds me of a Rilke poem, which I'll insert here because it speaks more articulately than I can about the subject.


You are not suprised at the force of the storm-
you have seen it growing.
The trees flee. Their flight
sets the boulevards streaming. And you know:
he whom they flee is the one
you move toward. All your senses
sing him, as you stand at the window.

The weeks stood still in summer.
The trees' blood rose. Now you feel
it wants to sink back
into the source of everything. You thought
you could trust that power
when you plucked the fruit;
now it becomes a riddle again,
and you again a stranger.

Summer was like your house: you knew
where each thing stood.
Now you must go out into your heart
as onto a vast plain. Now
the immense loneliness begins.

The days go numb, the wind
sucks the world from your senses like withered leaves.

Through the empty branches the sky remains.
It is what you have.
Be earth now, and evensong.
Be the ground lying under that sky.
Be modest now, like a thing
ripened until it is real,
so that he who began it all
can feel you when he reaches for you.

Anonymous said...

can't believe i have to follow rilke...oh, well! congratulations on achieving an equanimous and reasoned perspective on life 3 yrs into your dx. i wish my attitude was more in line with a yours or a monk's. you give this pals hope to keep moving forward in the face of insurmountable odds. the pics look great from boston and kudos for your deserved selection as the heywood award recipient for the past year. your blog has picked me up during the lowest of times. thanks