In the Fall, you prepare to start over. You cut back the perennials, make sure there’s a good layer of mulch, trim away the dead stuff, take out the leaves, clean the gutters, make plans for the Spring.
For some reason my art table was being stored in the garage of my grandparent’s house. That was the table in my teenage room, where I taught myself to draw. Marlys called to say they’d sold it for twenty or thirty dollars, did I want the money? I didn’t want the money. I was shocked my table was gone and didn’t know how to feel about it. Their house:
When I was living at my Uncle’s house in a small, remote Nevada mountain town, I gave him paintings and drawings. Most of them were portraits of our family, and he hung them alongside paintings from real, true artists. A few years later someone called to say “Did you hear the news? Seven Gables burned down.” The house was gone in a couple hours. I never did hear whether the art survived or not.
My grandfather built a big green two-story house for his family to live in. He raised five children there, then I grew up there with lots of cousins. Then his oldest daughter, my Aunt JoJo, lived there with her friend Susan. In the attic were piles of antiques, journals, old bibles and yearbooks, photos and cameras, 78rpm records, dusty odd treasures. I pawed through them as a kid and marveled. In the basement was stored four or five generations of the same, including all of my Mom’s stuff and my memorabilia from birth through college.
When my Aunt died, Susan, now the sole inhabitant, had a man come and haul everything away. I learned this when a neighbor told my brother-in-law, and he told me. Everything from my family’s history – maybe 100 years or so of stuff – now thrown away or priced to move at the Salvation Army.
Then we moved to a new city and rented a house for our first few months. That summer was the most rain ever recorded there. We had piles of cardboard boxes in the garage full of our personal items. In those were the last few things I had left from where I came from – a few photo albums, my own journals and sketchbooks, mementos from traveling. I drove to Home Depot in the flooded roads and got the last couple of sandbags, but it was too late. Overnight the rain came in, inches deep, and sat there soaking the ink off of pages, erasing pictures, deleting files. Floods are not cool.
Over time I’ve gotten more excited about Spring cleaning. Stuff is stuff. You know – it’s how you live, what you do and who you love that makes your home. Throwing stuff out, making room, feels good. The past is a bunch of stuff you drag around with you, and that bag gets heavier every year. Let it go.
In the Fall, you prepare to start over. If I collected all the branches, deadheads, weeds, garden leftovers, leaves, and grass trimmings from the year so they could be preserved for future admiration, the yard would get smaller and smaller, the seasons piling up around the fence line. Eventually there would be no room left to grow new things. So I clear the year away, cover the ground for next season’s work, and settle in for winter. Winter’s coming, and Spring is just around the corner.
For now though, it’s nice to sit on the porch with a coffee, the dogs, birds and squirrels, and watch leaves fall off the Hackberry.