I come from a country that has two seasons: a scorching hot summer, and an only slightly cooler winter. As a result, the transition of seasons has always been a magical thought to me, a fascinating thing of dreams.
I found myself away from home at the arrival of autumn, owing it to less than favorable circumstances. I’d witnessed a glimpse of it before, once, when the school year was pushed back to mid-september, and we could stay a little longer in the colorful bustle of Freiburg, in the company of the lovely hydrangea flowers around the white window borders of our big blue house.
But this time I watched it happen, the whole of it, the romanticized yellow leaves falling into piles, and their crunch when crushed underfoot. There was a sadness hindering my childish excitement for what I’d thought was a wondrous shift of everything around me, the skies and the air churning into an unpredictable combination every day. I wanted to see humans change, too. I’ve always loved the cold, the way it turned noses red and hid them behind thick, wool mufflers. I yearned for the sight of the gentle hunched and huddled movements of people in ugly big jackets, and the urgent kick in their step when warmth isn’t too far away anymore.
That is still in progress all around, but it hadn’t been making me feel a thing (except cold, especially while being sick.) In carefully coordinated ‘Fall fits,’ I’ve been taking regular walks in a little park close to our apartment, to move my flu-infested body a bit, and to see all the good doggos out for their walk.
Today was windy, so I really shouldn’t have spent as much time in the park as I did. But I was particularly picky about which bench to choose, for no apparent reason at all. Eventually, I chose one hidden in a corner, where I could see the earth and the sky, and all that sits between them.
Then, it happened.
I don’t know what it was, and I can’t do it justice with my clumsy use of language. But it was a moment of stillness inside, of peace– a dream in every sense. I was no longer myself for a brief few moments, was something greater and I was nothing at all. Maybe it was similar to witnessing something when submerged; being aware of movements and the existence of sound, but not experiencing any of them. I saw the rush of winds sending blades of grass into waves, and felt the hushed whispers of dried leaves in my very being.
It made me feel alive, and there was so much joy in that, such beauty and horror at how rare it was, the stillness that is being alive and the momentary ecstasy that traced its footsteps. It was a tiny, violent thing that overcame me– a breaking of some sort, of my heart maybe, or of a curse.
It reminded me profoundly of a line that I’d once thought I understood completely, but have discovered that I don’t, not at all.
“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.” -Donna Tartt, The Secret History