For the last weeks of summer, I dreaded not so much the coming of fall, but the ending of summer. I could not help but notice warm-weather delights: wearing shorts and sandals, a cold glass of rosé on the patio, walking to my errands, a post-dinner stroll through the neighborhood. But, once the days have indeed grown shorter and colder, I found that I can embrace the arrival of autumn. The nights are chilly, but I don’t like sleeping with A/C anyhow. My gardens look terrible, but fall allows me to admit I neither enjoy or need to garden.
Dark and cold it may be, but I am finding reassurance rather than sadness. At this age, I can appreciate the changing of the seasons and am comfortable in navigating its harsh edge while lingering in its quiet comforts. Yes, everything and everybody dies. But also yes, I am making soup this week. And hot tea is making a comeback. The leggings are coming out of hibernation.
Brian and I walked our favorite trail again last week, adding a little extra to extend the experience. The path, in just one week since our previous visit, was sprinkled with fallen leaves and the acorns underfoot made for some dramatic stumbles. The air was brisk – we finally could forgo the bug spray – and I was entranced by the sweet scent of drying ferns and slow vegetal decay. Perhaps waxing a tad too poetic, it was sublime and spiritual.
This particular fall marks a year since we cleaned out our mother’s house after her move to a nursing home. The burden of that sad and stressful experience had faded into acceptance and relief. This is ever more true as my three siblings and I completed a final remaining important task this past Saturday.
Twenty-five years after her death, we were able to bury my grandmother’s ashes alongside her husband. Her remains, in a beautiful marble box, had been stored in my mother’s gardening shed (aka “potting house”) for the ensuing years. Nana loved gardening, hence it was an apropos location. My mother would visit her mother in the potting house and talk to her. But as my mother declined and the potting house was overrun with wasps, Nana rested alone.
My younger sister took possession of the ashes and promised to figure out a plan. She and her husband did some research and learned that not only had a burial plot been secured in the little town cemetery, her name and date had already been carved on a headstone shared with her husband, who has been awaiting her arrival since 1985.
The town cemetery is approached by a narrow dirt road through a tall forest, and opens up into a lovely colonial graveyard. The day could not have been better: sunny and cool and we four grown grandchildren of Dorothy shared poems, essays, scripture and reminiscences of Nana. We had never really talked of our shared experiences of visiting Nana as children and I think we each discovered things we did not know. It was an ideal balance of tears and laughter. Then, as if staged for a Hollywood movie, we heard the approach of ducks overhead and looked up to see a perfect V formation of geese pass over the gravesite. We could not help but feel this was in honor of the true nature lover we were burying, or even perhaps, it was Dorothy herself who choreographed the display.
If this blog is about being a grandmother, I am here to say I learned from the best. And although my children barely knew her and my grandchildren will not, I can promise, that as true as fall follows summer, that Dorothy Belle Springer lives on.