The mountains are blotted with saturated & deep autumn colors. There is the faint smell of chimney smoke in the air. Locals are beginning to reveal clothing that has been tucked & stored for months. I’m excited about the change in weather, the change of seasons. It means death, rebirth.
Often people compare winter to death, when all is barren & bleak. For me, death is autumn. I don’t mean that in a dark way. It’s just to say that things are drying out, getting colder, losing their former life.
In winter, life is brewing & bubbling underground. New beginnings are preparing for spring. Everything is in an embryo stage, rapidly forming, but not ready to announce itself to the world. For some reason, I’m more interested in the beauty of what is dying. I prefer autumn. It reminds me of seeing the hands of Louise Bourgeois (artist & sculptor, died in 2010). Her hand’s were thick & manly, had knots like gnarly branches, and wrinkles that resembled woodgrain lines. I loved looking at her hands. I admired them. I wanted to be like them.
Being used up can be a beautiful thing. It’s like a well loved seat, that’s butter soft, yielding, and showing signs of being loved …to death. It might not be the seat everyone wants to display proudly, but it’s the seat everyone wants to sit in.
November has been an amazing month so far. I’ve had the great privilege of picking & eating edible mushrooms. As well as collecting wood to burn in the fire place. Both good examples of what it means to end a life, only to continue it in a new form.
The mushrooms I picked were Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria mellea complex). Without a doubt, one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had. (That’s almost 40 years of meals to choose from! They were that good.) I made a somewhat elaborate meal out of them at first. I realized that I wasted their unique flavor by pairing them with so many things. So the next day, I picked more and tried again. I made a dish of just Honey Mushrooms, sauteed in olive oil, with a little sea salt & black pepper added. The taste was divine.
The wood I’ve been bringing home was chopped by someone else. It was here when I moved here. It’s an enormous pile, that will soon topple over. Each day I have to bring in enough pieces to create about 8 hours of fire. It’s approximately a 1/4 of a small log per hour. The wood is interesting to handle. Each piece has it’s own color, shape, fungi and bugs that travel on it.
Life is good right now. I have no complaints. Each day is a new day to explore. I’m excited for what the future might bring. But not more excited for what each present moment holds. It’s glorious. There is so much life in us, around us, beyond us. It never ends.
Each death, is only the beginning. Autumn will go, just as fast as it came, until it is reborn to die again. Dry autumn leaves will fall, to nourish the ground, that feeds the tree, that creates fresh green leaves, that will turn golden and drop. Where did the original autumn leaves go? They were always here.
Leaving one life…
To take on a new one…
Big wood pile…
Just like mushrooms, just like autumn, just like us — the wood pile is going through a transformation. Its ashes will be placed out back, to wash into the soil when it rains, to feed new plant growth & trees. What a beautiful process.
[All photos are of Black Mountain, North Carolina. Mostly from my front yard.]