Peeled Away

"The very first tear he made was so deep and I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you've ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away."
C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
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 The light has changed now.  It hits us at a different angle than last month and feels somehow a watered down version of its summer self.  This new slanting, fragile light is giving up more and more ground to the darkness, edging in more slowly each morning and evaporating earlier every night.

I prepare for fall like a seasoned traveler, lacing up my shoes and pulling on a comfortable sweater, because I know it will take me on the familiar journey deep into the labyrinth of memories this season evokes.  I can smell it coming, and I swallow hard to dislodge the knot that gathers in my throat.

This is the month when I celebrate the birth of my husband and both of my boys.  Just seeing the word October on the calendar makes me sigh a little to myself.  I come to this month warmed through from the long summer, skin just beginning to release that last round of heat it absorbed at our final trip to the pool.  And I come to October restless and willing, already in transition and eager for change.  I come to this month anxious to shed the skin of another year gone by, ready to change the number of my age along with everyone else in my family, though it's not my turn, not this month.

I come riding in on their month of transition, having adopted it as my own because they cannot all become a year older together, all in one month without me.  I come in, kneeling, wishing for a moment like Eustace had in the The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when Aslan peeled away his scales to reveal pink, perfect skin.  In some ways, I am always waiting for that moment, but this month especially it feels possible, feels near at hand.

So I come in with birthday party plans and gift ideas, with memories of the first October spent with each of my boys.  I celebrate my re-birth month, the month I became a mother, twice. 

Fall is not even cold here, and yet it still manages to smells like fall when the light begins to change.  I step outside, and the breeze blows in that smell, and I breathe it in like it can explain itself, like I can discern its precise recipe if I only take in enough of it.  But whatever that smell is, it makes me deeply nostalgic, not for a place or a time, but for a feeling.

It is a feeling that has coexisted with so many of my fall rituals and beloved holiday plans, that I begin to look for it in the spreading of the nice tablecloth or the smell of pumpkin and cinnamon baking in the oven or the sound of scissors slicing through a sheet of wrapping paper.  But I realize that the feeling is evasive, fleeting.  Those rituals don't guarantee the feeling; they just happen to have occurred many of the times when that feeling was settling over me.

That feeling is, as close as I can describe it, contentment.  Looking around at the people you love most, stopping to see them, really see them, and being overcome by the knowledge that, at that particular moment, you could not ask for anything more.

Perhaps because that feeling has found me more often in the fall, with its string of birthdays and holidays, I come to October ready for it, asking to be baptized in it.  I am ready to have the scales of the mundane, of the ungrateful and unforgiving string of days, cut from me.  I come to this season with the trembling glow of anticipation on me, craving that moment of stillness, of rebirth into my own life, that will for one brief moment grant me eyes fresh enough to see its true beauty.  May my scales be peeled away this year, again and again.  May all of ours.


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