I almost missed October. My favorite month. I almost missed it by spending days and days indoors avoiding dust and pollen and all manner of things that inhibit breathing. I almost missed the exquisitely slow sunsets that bleed out over the cotton fields, transforming the exploding bolls into shimmering globes of pink and gold. I almost missed the deliciously cool dusks that slide down the sky like a satin negligee as soon as the last color disappears behind the horizon. I almost missed the first sycamore leaves curling and crisping and the last of the wildflowers bursting forth.
Almost. But not quite. Because Sunday afternoon I could take the quarantine and accompanying lethargy no longer and, donning a mask that made me look like an extra in a low-budget Deep South “X-Files,” I set forth. The road was, in fact, dusty and the fine powder of decaying peanut vines seemed to hover over both sides of the road. I didn’t care. My wheezing breath inside the mask sounded like Darth Vader. I didn’t care. I needed to feel the acute-angle sunshine, see the purple and gold spikes of color, hear the sweet sigh of wind through the broom sedge.
I needed to and I would.
I stopped to take in at least four different shades of purple and stepped over the ditch to snap a photo of yellow asters, catching a tiny stinkbug riding the disk flowers in the center as though they were a mechanical bull. I watched a stand of silvery red grass as big as my front porch shimmer like a ballgown in the breeze and wished I had my Audubon guide to teach me its name. I walked up the first hill, down its other side and back up to the crossroads where, in the distance, a double rifle crack reminded me that I was not alone in the October afternoon.
Two miles is not far, but it had been weeks since I’d walked them. I could feel the muscles in my back and legs stretch hungrily. Movement is nourishment. Motion is food.
I was tired when I got home. My face was hot and my chest was tight, but I was content. I had felt and seen and heard October.
I am no longer surprised, but I remain astonished by the synchronicity of life’s quotidian moments. I am no longer caught off guard, but I am still disconcerted when events over which I have absolutely no control are synced into a sequence of moments within my one single existence. I am not frightened, but I am forever awed when, for example, I spend an afternoon protecting myself from the inhalation of dust and open my prayer book the next morning to find that the reading from the Psalms includes this verse from Chapter 103: “For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”
For a second or two, I stood between the choice of laughing uproariously at the ludicrous coincidence or crying inconsolably at the singular providence. Stuck between the two, I chose the third option — quietness and stillness enough to hear the voice that whispered, “That which would harm you is within you. That which you would avoid in an effort to protect yourself is the source of your humanity. That which takes your breath is the very stuff of which you are made.”
I almost missed October. But I didn’t. From the dust of creation, the dust of myself, she lured me out into her last days, her fullest days, her days of deepest truth.