Burning autumn’s waste with a refining fire

Burning autumn’s waste with a refining fire
                        

Everything about fall is dense and full of depth, kind of like the stews I drag out my heavy red Dutch oven for — each ingredient a layer of richness like the leaves that are lazily floating to the ground.

Sunday I made a rich broccoli cheese soup in that pot to eat while watching the Browns pull out another one in Minnesota. With each slurp of cheesy goodness, another minute ticked off the scoreboard until presto — we were 3-1. I don’t take things for granted like a good bowl of soup being the key to a W.

I feel restless this autumn, unsettled. If I’m honest, it’s because I know there are winds of change blowing about in my head and in life, a wild tempest so strong it just might shake my foundations. Change is not for the faint of heart, but I always believed I’d be a survivor in a zombie apocalypse anyway. Not everyone needs to be able to run fast to outwit a zombie. Sometimes book smarts are the key to survival. Sometimes zombies aren’t all they seem.

Our daughter Selena and her husband left this morning for a stint at the International Rescue Committee, where she’ll be directly working with incoming refugees from Afghanistan. It’s a short-term assignment and one she was persistent in landing. When that’s over, they’ll relocate to a state nearby and settle in for hopefully permanent work in the same vein.

While they lived down the road from us, the air seems strangely silent this morning. I hear the breathing of their cat laying on his favorite blanket, the fuzzy green one he needs to sleep, and hope he knows they’ll be back to get him. Do you ever wonder if your pet misses you and wonders where you are?

You never quit being a parent, but I’d like to stop being one step behind them, one breath away. I’ve often said we raised them to leave us, and I firmly believe that, but if I’ve done anything, it’s put what they’re trying to achieve and reach for before my own goals. When do we lay down their plans and know they’re settled, that they’ll be fine without us? I cannot go through my life letting go of things I want to do just because they might be home for a visit. When I was younger, I swore this was something I would never do. When faced with that prospect, it’s a harder thing to choose.

Someone recently said to me that they don’t want to end up waiting in their home for their kids to come home, that they want to get out there and live. What does “live” mean? Does it mean selling your house and buying a camper to travel the U.S.? Does it mean moving to Mexico and living out your days in a small adobe home close to an undeveloped coastline in Oaxaca? Or does it mean simply doing what you want every day without the ravaging ebb and pull of financial responsibilities? I want to find out even if it means a tectonic shift in my life.

For this moment, this very second as I sit here on a gorgeous 72 F day in October, I am trying to be candid with myself. I have been restless for a reason. I want to make tangible things I can hold in my hand and not back down from taking the best care of myself. I refuse to make myself smaller to be respected the way I deserve to be, and I want to be where I’m seen — truly seen for who I am, not who I’m expected to be.

Autumn is dense and full of layers, and its smells are heady, going straight through to your lungs. It’s full of things that need cleaned up and burned to get to the next season.

Melissa Herrera is a columnist, published author and drinker of too many coffees. You can find her book, “TOÑO LIVES,” at www.tinyurl.com/Tonolives or buy one from her in person (because all authors have boxes of their own novel). For inquiries or to purchase, email her at junkbabe68@gmail.com.


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