It’s the last day of August. One of those thick fog mornings. It feels like the lull at high tide, just before the ocean pulls back on itself. A stretched breath. A slow turn at the arc of the seasons.
Actually, we are past that arc. The descent into autumn has begun. The wild cherries have already dropped their leaves, and the buckeyes are doing the same. Going to bed early, like I sometimes do.
Last night a thunderstorm raged through, flashes of lightning that were close enough to startle me from sleep and leave me wondering what death by lightning strike would be like. I also wondered about all the katydids. How do they manage such sky violence? Do they just hush and hang on to their little branches and stems? Such is the way my sleeping mind works.
I woke in the storm and shut our bedroom door that was open to the cool night air. Rain had soaked the floor and I blindly grabbed a towel and mopped it up with my feet. I shut the door on the storm and went back to sleep. Soon enough that door will shut out the cold instead of the rain. The thunderstorms will migrate south, with the warblers and hummingbirds, and the north winds will return, first howling on the ridges, then sweeping down into the valleys.
Usually by this time of the year I am ready for fall. For the air to turn crisp. For the architecture of the forest to reveal itself once again. For the tobacco-sweet smell of the earth on our wooded paths.
But on this morning, at least, I am not ready. The harvest is too slim, in my mind. The crickets whir outside my window and I am not ready. The trees stash away the last of light’s sweetness and I am not ready.
What would it have meant, to my ancestors, if the harvest was too slim? A leanness, an edge of fear. But also, I think, they would lean on each other. That is how we survived. Through connection. Through sharing what sweetness we may have stashed in our roots, like the trees do.
Everything about this year, about this season, about a garden that did not grow enough, or a nation unprepared and unravelling, points to a lean winter. Hard times. And in the storm of it, I think about the trees and wonder, Where is our mycorrhizal network? The underworld web of cached light and story? The web that will feed us when our spirits are broken?
And just in the asking, I know that it is there. Some sort of human mycorrhizal network. It’s not a thing for the microscopes. It defies logic and understanding. But deep in my bones, I feel the wisdom of my ancestors approaching a hard season. I feel the stories tucked away in our roots. The hands that can hold us, even if they can’t touch. I lean into it, and it does not break.