Autumn is singular. It is the only time of the year with a name and an “aka.” You can always predict the exact moment autumn arrives. We do not ease into this season as with the others. It accosts the world precisely at 8:00 a.m. on the first day of school. It is abrupt and unmistakable and startling.
Its entrance is heralded annually by a homogenous collection of children sporting new clothes, new backpacks, new braces, and new teeth – all under a canopy of sun-streaked hair and bronzed faces. In attendance are mothers sporting tears and relief.
Summer careened by with cold-blooded speed, leaving my catalog of well-intentioned adventures woefully undischarged.
I do not sleep well the night prior to the beginning of school. Never did. I’m preoccupied perfecting my saber-rattling and flapping my excessive arm flab to ward off bad karma regarding my tribe. I once saw a warning posted on a trail we were hiking in Washington. It read: “BEWARE! There are new elk calves all along the Hoh River trail. You may be perceived as a predator. If you are chased by the mother, run until she stops chasing you…and then a little further.” The same can be said about grandmas. Personally, I’d rather hazard an encounter with a whole herd of mother elk than confront one protective matriarch.
Anyway, Monday morning, as per tradition, I arose at an insomniacally imbecilic hour and prepared for this annual rite of passage. I successfully fogged a mirror without cracking it, so I felt confident enough about my personal body mass to proceed. I dressed quickly and hurried to meet my grandkids for the tri-generational migration to school.
All week I’d rehearsed my taut, maternal “everything’s-going-to-be-all-right/aren’t-we-having-fun?” smile, but only succeeded in looking like an over-caffeinated Cheshire cat.
Upon seeing each child safely into class, I loitered outside the rooms, my heart a little bruised. This year is the same as all years prior…but not quite.
And then I went home to try to dislodge the smile that spasmodic muscles held unrelentingly frozen.
And re-gain my equilibrium.
I’m unclear just how to re-gain one’s equilibrium. It’s so easily lost, but not found.
So I asked Auntie Fern, my darling 96-year-old aunt whom I adore, what her secret is. How does she stay healthy, centered, balanced, harmonious? She is the Dorrity Family Yoda. Surely, she has THE ANSWER.
Without a moment’s hesitation, she replied, “Prune juice.”
Not sure I had heard correctly, I asked incredulously, “Prune juice?”
She reiterated with enthusiastic accentuation, “PRUNE. JUICE.”
Then she launched into an infomercial endorsement of this magical elixir, this nectar of the gods, with unrestrained rapture, making claims of health benefits worthy of Sham Wow testimonials!
Well, who am I to take issue with someone who once changed my diapers? She has always been my mentor, my consultant, my tutor. Why, once she explained the technique of wringing the neck of a chicken with such vivid, graphic clarity, complete with appropriate hand gestures, sound effects, and chicken-face miming, that my nerves were left in tatters, and I went clammy. I threatened to go vegen. “Colonel Sanders” is now the anti-foul, and “chicken tenders” a vulgarity.
Auntie Fern assured me that my life would not only have harmony, but regularity. And harmony and regularity constitute equilibrium.
Well, I was convinced. I became a believer. It all sounded so simple, and never at any time of my life do I need harmony and regularity more than I do now. I became a juice-totin’, hand-clapping, hallelujah-singing convert of “The Potion.”
I sipped from the grail.
At first, nothing happened. I began to suspect that I’d been a casualty of gullibility and a delusional aunt.
But then – Harmony hit Regularity with a vengeance. I couldn’t leave the house for three days. Auntie Fern was right. I have never been healthier. Being quarantined, I wasn’t exposed to a germ – or another human being – for nearly a week. Ergo, I never contracted a cold, West Nile virus, or the plague.
“The Cure,” however, can be isolating and solitary, and I am a reluctant recluse. So I now sing the praises of the prune with diminished vigor.
That’s powerful stuff. You can’t control it. You can only adjust.
So I think from now on I will seek equilibrium from alternative sources than from juice that could blister paint.
Recently, I saw a card with a wise man sitting atop a mountain. He says, “Life is simple. We are born. We have birthdays. We shrink.”
Shrink, heck. I shrivel. I am beginning to resemble a prune.
But I’ve also heard it said that the wrinklier the prune, the sweeter the fruit. I will own that.
I will search for equilibrium in other places. I am tired. I will sit in the autumn sun, let my mind wander, and listen to my thoughts, should any materialize. I will procrastinate. I will pursue coherency and see if I can establish a new pattern. And claim my own space.
I will contemplate the efficacy of a diet of chicken and prune juice. And I will trust that autumn will bring renewed balance, solace and equilibrium in all things familiar.