The fall doesn't really come when it officially arrives around here.
The calendar says fall started a few days ago. Fall break is next week, and I'm hoping to go camping with my family, or at least take a bunch of extended walks. Maybe see a few early mornings and teach my son some September-October constellations, heedless of bedtimes and school nights. But it's still getting up to 102 degrees today and tomorrow.
By the time winter officially arrives in three months, we'll have just gotten used to enjoying cool temperatures, and it will sort of seem like we plunge into a cold winter with only a tiny autumn intermission. (Yes, friends/family in the Northeast and pretty much everywhere but Arizona. We do consider 65 degrees "plunging into cold.")
Right now, right this second, it seems a little like fall. It's still early enough in the day, in the 80s. There's a cool breeze. The air feels great to breathe, like drinking. The leaves (most don't turn color and drop around here) gleam in some barely discernible way, and the way the light lies on them seems to indicate that this is an in-between time. There'll be these moments off and on until winter, but not always. Mostly we just plunge in without realizing it.
Unfortunately, the "fall" in the other sense of the word seems to have arrived and moved in at Hosey-Wilson headquarters. I don't have a job. Can't seem to sell shit. Can't seem to write shit. My husband has a job, but one for which he is ridiculously overqualified. We have no money. We bicker about stupid crap. I propel myself out of the secondary chair in our home office. (We call it the cat's chair usually, but right now husband is in MY chair. Why is he on the computer anyway? Doesn't he know I need it?! Damn him and his need to unwind!). I holler something and slam the door, only to open it again in seven seconds, come back in, sit back down, and whine at him. What is wrong with us?
I am obsessed with the wrong kind of fall. David was playing on the little stone wall in our backyard last night, the one that surrounds a fire pit that hosts arthropods rather than flames. He pranced, balanced, leaped from the break in the wall to the other side, gripped the ledge with his bare toes. It was already slick from blowing bubbles; he'd flung soapy water all over it. Quit it, I told him again and again. He didn't care. He wasn't afraid of the fall. He didn't think about what a fall could mean. There's hard ground beneath you, I kept saying. A fall would be awful. But I never really do fall, he kept telling me. Even if he did, he reasonsed, it isn't really falling. I almost always catch him, or he catches himself. "It's just a half-fall, Mom," he said. "You're making it scarier by talking about it."
I had another glimpse of the good fall after that, last night. We just ... were.
I should back up. Yesterday began nicely -- I got some things done around the house, got a few random blog comments (how I can be reasonably sure I haven't arrived: that still makes me insanely happy), received a request to use a photo I'd forgotten I had even taken. The morning was clear and blue and breezy. Then my husband called and asked me to check our bank account balance, and well ... I mounted the fast track to the other kind of fall. By the time I left to pick up my son, all I could think was: We have no money. I didn't get anything done. Who cares about that photo; you're a writer, dammit. And why is it so hot again?!
And then, later, in the backyard, my son had the gall to play around with falling. He giggled about it. He jumped. Plunged. He landed on his bare feet, hard. Right beside where the backyard black widow used to live. (Not to be confused with the porch black widows, who are technically also in the backyard.) Sticks and web fragments stuck to his bare, bubble soapy feet.
He plunged, and loved it. He then moved on to the swings, where he again tested my cardiological health by leaping off the swing and trying tricks "that some guy at school showed me, before he fell off and skinned his face." But he survived, and my heart rate managed to stay below 200. He closed his eyes and swung hard, "making my own wind," he said. A fat lizard with a tail longer than its body scurried up and down the wall beside us. A giant dragonfly flitted in and out of the tree I never trim. The sky glowed with final smears of blue and cinnamon before going completely dark, and the crescent moon and stars winked on. He jumped one last time, trusting the ground to catch him without incident.
I don't know. Maybe the analogy isn't perfect. Maybe "fall" and "fall" is just a coincidence of language, and doesn't necessarily accommodate my hangups. Because the plunge would have to come first, right?
Because the thing is, I love plunges. I love roller coasters, cliff diving, those rides that just drop you over and over again, the feeling of leaving your stomach and heart somewhere above your head. As a kid, I liked that sensation of falling when I inevitably tipped too far in my chair. The only part that sucked was the actual collision, which is the part I equated with fall. If that part didn't happen -- like with roller coasters and diving into a lake and taking a chance that scares the crap out of you but turns out OK -- it didn't really count as a fall. The before-fall slice of time -- that part was great. Like the mornings around here lately, the almost-falls.
Whatever. Maybe my analogy almost works after all. Maybe falls are always fleeting around here. It's a matter of perspective. Maybe you're supposed to dwell on one, but I've picked the wrong one.
I'm applying to everything I can get my hands on. I'm submitting every day. I'm playing outside every evening. My husband and I are using the changes and challenges in our careers to grow closer, to support each other. I'm taking every ride I can. I have to. I'm in the plunge.
Maybe the fall doesn't really ever come. We'll plunge right in, all of us. And maybe it'll be pretty awesome.
Or at least, maybe we won't kill ourselves from a concussion after mixing soap suds and cement. And black widows.