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Moving Toward the Sun

by Elizabeth Stewart

Any day now, in a bold display of purpose, Mother Earth will start combing her hair with fire, and strutting her stuff with all the brazenness of a hennaed harlot. Up and down these hills, back and forth across this continent, far and wide across her northern hemisphere, she will drape herself in smoldering bronze, deep russet, and sumptuous plum. Then, dripping in the luminous jewel tones of amber, gold, and topaz, and heaven bent on creation, she will stride forward with power and authority as she moves closer toward the sun, and toward the fulfillment of her own destiny.

Gone now are the wispy little tendrils and the sweet baby's breath of her first spring days. No longer does she flash the little bright eyes of her youth, play coquette in baby doll pinks, or enchant in lilac. The dense, creamy complexion of the magnolia is no longer hers, and she has given up the sweet attar of musk rose that was her signature in June. She has put away July's deep delphinium blue and flirtatious fuchsia, along with the imperial purple and sultry scarlet that she wore in August. Gone, too, is the green, quivering, romantic nature that was hers in summer, and she no longer tilts her opium-laced poppy lips seductively toward the sun.

Ah, but no matter - for that was all mere dalliance. It is only now, in autumn, that she will move her voluptuous body in more closely to the sun, and tilt her head back, as if to expose her neck in submission to love. Yes, it is only now - in a glorious blaze of maturity - that Earth will become the siren of space who is ready to complete her assignation with the sun.

By January, at rest in winter's afterglow, full of gestating life, and snuggled in more closely to old Sol's warmth than at any other time of year, she will go to bed early, dream long, and get up late. Perhaps she'll sigh in expectation as she dreams of downy spring hatchlings and plans the colors of her new nursery - baby-chick yellow, bunny-eye pink, new-bird blue. Or maybe she'll look forward to the sweet pleasure of new little peas, chubby-cheeked tomatoes, and tender baby corn with silky, golden locks. Perhaps she'll loll around under a thick, white blanket and plan her next spring wardrobe - bluebonnets, lady's slippers, and dazzlingly bejeweled dragonflies - for she is not afraid to be beautiful. In the evening, she might wish upon a star, or chat with sister Moon in passing. "How full and radiant you've grown," she'll say, or, "Are you blue tonight?", for they are very supportive sisters

We call her Mother Earth and compare our own life cycles to her seasons, and yet, it is at our earliest aches and pains, gray hairs, or hormonal events that we begin to describe ourselves as being in "the autumn of our lives." What we usually mean by this, unfortunately, is that we are in decline. But Earth, far from being in decline, is at the full height of her creative powers in autumn. It's now that seeds are popping, salmon are spawning, bears are hugging, and crickets are playing their love songs. It's now that Earth will don her most smoldering and seductive colors along with her most redolent and heady perfumes. And it's now that she will begin moving boldly forward.

Autumn is not only a time of reaping and conserving the bounty of past efforts; it's also a time of new conceptions, new perspectives, new plans, and new purposes. It's in the maturity of this season, and with all the authority we've earned along the way, that we, like Earth, have the power to move forward as boldly, and as creatively as we want. What we conceive of and create in autumn may be different from what we conceived of and created in spring, but it is still just as vital to the fulfillment of our lives and our continuing destinies. And our destinies do continue - not only through autumn, but also right on into the winter of our lives, for as long as we live. That's why it's both odd and sad that as we grow older so many of us seem to stop dreaming and planning. Perhaps as we age, a youth oriented culture makes us believe, inaccurately, that our destinies must either already have been fulfilled or that they have simply passed us by. But winter is the time when the Earth is most preoccupied with the dream of fulfillment, and it's probably the time that we should be too.

Last spring, a friend of mine (who lives in a very small town) was stopped on the street by an older woman who asked if she knew of a motel, not too expensive and within walking distance. The woman explained that she had been on the road, alone, when her RV broke down and because she was unable to find anyone to make the necessary repair before morning, she needed a place to spend the night. Since there was no such accommodation in the area, my friend, after only a few minutes of conversation, offered the woman her guest room. That evening the woman told my friend that, upon retirement, she and her husband bought the RV and, in fulfillment of their dreams, headed out for a life of adventure on the open road. After a few years of this happy existence, her husband, whom she loved very much, died suddenly. Feeling very sad, she returned home, where she stayed for quite some time. As time passed, she grew more and more depressed until, eventually, she realized that she not only missed her husband, but she missed her own life as well. She had always loved the diversity and sociability of other campers when her husband was alive, and when she realized that she missed that extended, nomadic family almost as much as she missed her husband, she decided to pack up the RV and head back out to live her life again. She was seventy-six years old.

I'm not sure which of these two women I admire most: My autumn friend, who had the compassion and courage to shelter a passing sister in need, or this winter woman, who refused to let life be over one moment before it actually is. After all, how many of us would take a stranger (even a seventy-six-year-old woman) into our homes, and how many of us would go home with one? In fact, how many of us, at any age, would have the courage to leave the security of our homes for the insecurity of even one night as a single woman under the stars? Wasn't she afraid out there alone? Her answer to that question was, "Yes, sometimes; but life is frightening everywhere, even at home. You have to be sensible and look out for yourself, of course, but you can't let fear stop you."

The following day the woman, who had toured forty-two of the contiguous states, whose goal it was to tour the remaining six, and who had never (ever!) gone home with a stranger before, thanked my friend most sincerely, got into her repaired vehicle, and drove off toward life. That week my friend received a series of postcards, sent along the way by the winter woman en route to her destiny, and the following week a package arrived in the mail. Inside was a gourd, grown by the woman, and now dried, full of rattling seeds, and beautifully painted to represent a lush cornucopia. This handiwork, also featuring my friend's name in large letters, had been lovingly executed by the seventy-six-year-old woman who, even in winter, keeps dreaming, keeps planning, keeps creating, keeps nurturing, keeps moving toward the sun, and who, just like the old vagabond Earth, still prefers to wake up in a different place in the universe every morning of her life.

Elizabeth Stewart studied theater at the University of Rhode Island, and in addition to having worked as a theater director has done professional storytelling. She is the mother of three children and the grandmother of six. In addition to her desire to continue to develop as a writer, her other interests, while wide and varied, include beadwork. She feels that there is a correlation between writing and making beaded jewelry in that words, like beads, must be strung on a common thread in an interesting, varied and rhythmic pattern. She is currently studying grant writing and hopes that one day soon she will be writing winning grants that will enable many women to do great things for their communities.



Reflections on Samhuinn |  Falling Away ]
Reveling in Creation: Stagecoach Reinswomen on the American Frontier ]
The Stone Path |  A Search for Beauty ]


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