When did the leaves change? I think to myself as I stand in the path to the small patch of woods behind our house. A stray, golden aspen leaf flutters down past my hand. I try to catch it, but fail.
Seems like only yesterday the trees were just beginning to bud for spring; pink peach blossoms, and green maple clusters all fat and ready to burst. I would stand in this very same spot and breath the sunshine -- yes, you can smell the spring sunshine, especially in early spring when the last bit of winter lingers in the air, but the sun is full, and bright and determined.
But somehow we skipped right from that, past summer, to the fiery, rusty, golden spectrum of autumn. How did that happen? And the sun -- it's bright today, but it doesn't seem to warm me. A bright, blue, cloudless sky, but I still feel a chill.
I think I hear someone call me, "Katherine"...but returning to the house there is no one there. Dishes are on the table from breakfast. They left the coffee pot on. I consider turning it off, but it keeps the pot warm, and if they are coming back, maybe they left it on intentionally. I don't want to be the cause of cold coffee.
I'm restless. Maybe it's the change of season. I mill around the house not knowing what to do with myself. The couch, splashed with autumn sun from the picture window, is inviting, but not what I want. I stand in the kitchen, arms folded across my chest, trying to decide. Maybe I'm hungry. No. If I have to ask, I'm not.
I move up the stairs, quietly -- though I don't know why if everyone is already out -- and head back to the bedroom. Maybe a nap. But outside the door I think about the sun, and blue sky, and beautiful trees and I don't want to waste that.
Maybe a walk.
The woods have a small trail and follow it around with an empty mind. There's something about this day -- there's a wistfulness in the air. I pass a small rock cairn I had built the last time I walked this path -- when was that? For some reason I can't recall exactly, although it couldn't have been that long ago. I like these woods and tend to spend a lot of time here. I consider adding to the cairn and bend to pick up a stone, but think twice, as it's perfect and precarious and lovely as it is. Don't mess with perfection, right? I leave it be and continue on my way.
I suddenly wish I'd thought to bring my camera. The light is dappled and diffuse leaving lovely pools of light in the underbrush that is quickly growing thin from their autumn shedding. Seems I never have my camera when I want it most, and when I do, I see no reason to use it. I try to take the philosophical approach and assume I did not think to bring it because I am meant to be in the moment right now, seeing my eye, not from behind a camera. And I get that. I do. With the lens between myself and the world, while I capture a moment for eternity, in doing so I am removed from it. Not in it. So this morning, I shall be in it. In the world
It seems important right now, though I cannot say why.
When I get back to the house, the car is there. They are home. I click through the kitchen door -- again, quietly, though I'm not sure why...I feel oddly tentative today. Perhaps the remnants of dream I cannot recall.
I can see them in the living room through the open kitchen. They glance up toward the door, Annabelle lets out a little gasp, and Matt puts his arm around her little shoulders. She seems upset. Simon is at the window, his tall, teenage frame nearly blocking all the sun.
They all seem off -- Was I supposed to do something with them all this morning? I sigh. It wouldn't be the first time I'd forgotten about something. I feel like lately I've been scattered and unfocused. I feel the guilt rush up in a metallic taste in my mouth.
As I move through the kitchen, Simon turns from the window and goes swiftly to the kitchen door, slamming it shut. A little too hard. I expect Matt to say something, but he doesn't. I think to, but if I'm already on the hot seat, I don't want to make it worse.
Moving around the kitchen island and standing in the archway between the living room and the front hall and stairs up to the bedrooms, I see Annabelle has been crying.
No one will look at me. My heart aches. I feel a clench in my stomach. I want to call to her, but I cannot speak. I know it is my fault.
It's my fault she is crying."
"Momma!" she suddenly cries out, tearing herself free of Matt's embrace and racing toward me. Relieved -- although for what I still cannot say -- I crouch down to receive her as she runs hard toward me.
But as I clasp my arms around her, ready to apologize for whatever I did to upset her so, to dry her tears, calm her sobs, stroke her hair and tell her I love her --
She is past me and up the stairs. The cold in me turns to ice.
No, not past me.
I turn just in time to see her little, stomping, running sneakers disappear up the stairs and her bedroom door slams shut.
I turn back to Matt and Simon, who both stare after her with sad, lost, desperate faces.
And their gazes, too, pass through me.
And the cold invades me. Becomes me. I am one with it.