By Ty H. Phillips
The grey sky is bleak and cold, like a bath left to sit for too long.
The wind sings its song as a shower of golden leaves migrate; dancing by my eyes like Zeus raining down on Danae. Gooseflesh covers my arms and legs as I breathe in the cool of the fall air. It is the season of harvest, feasting, fattening all in preparation for the lord of death to cover the earth in his cold and icy hand.
Fall is the season that I feel most alive.
I look down at my coffee mug and watch the steam rise up from its bed of dark brown liquid. It spirals and intertwines like lovers, ever reaching up until it fades into nothingness. I raise the mug to my lips, breathe in the scent and allow the hot liquid to run over my lips. It sits in my mouth for a brief moment, caressing my palette before rushing down my throat and warming my belly.
I wiggle my cold toes—clad still, only in sandals—trying to flush them with blood. The chill is invigorating. I picture my ancestors dressed in fur, bow in hand, making their way through snowfall in hopes of felling a stag. His antlers to grace the mantle of the most powerful among them, his flesh to feed the bellies of those left at home, his fur to cover the bodies of his babes.
I look down at my cozy chair, my fresh mug, my ample belly and wonder if I would have been strong enough to partake in the hunt and sustain those that I also left behind. Would I return home, triumphant, adorned in fresh blood and horn, embraced by kin, or would my body have collapsed only to be left in the cold embrace of winter?
Eventually the golden light of sun peeks out like a child’s face around the edge of a door, curious and anxious. I tilt my head back and expose my face to its golden rays, its mild warmth in the cool fall wind. Rainbows erupt in the droplets of water on fallen red and gold leaves. I hear squirrels chasing each other and fighting over their collection of winter stores.
I hear children laughing down the street and imagine them as ghosts and ghouls a few days ago—arms outstretched begging, “trick or treat.”
My own little princess pounces out the door, spinning and saying, “Look, Daddy, look!” Her red curls reflect gold in the timid light. She twirls in her Merida costume and does her best impressions of a 4 year old Scot. Oddly enough, she holds her toy bow under her arm and I smile inside as I make the connection between my recent thoughts and her appearance. “It’s jus’ma booow,” she says.
I arm her with a suction tipped arrow and we take aim at the deadly pumpkins, alight with scary faces, and we let fly the hounds of war—or in this case, Made in China plastic arrows. Her first shot meets squarely with my jackolantern, the arrow slipping into its carved eye. “I got it daddy, I got it!” She raises her bow in triumph.
The wind picks up and she clenches up as it slips through the flimsy fabric. She shakes, shivers and runs inside. I do my best to make a mock belly laugh like Merida’s father and call out behind her, “Run wee lass, run!” I hear her giggle all the way down the hall and into her bedroom.
Something about this season is magical.
I look down to my left, my 10 pound dog is not fitting into my mental revelry. I need a large Irish Wolf-Hound curled up in front of a roaring fire, but I suppose my coffee and wee pint mongrel will have to do. I scratch her head and sip my coffee. The sun hides behind grey skies once more, ever the timid child in fall.
Fall to me is ever the reminder of our disconnect from the law of land and wood. We hide behind digital walls and make our great hunt at the nearest fast food store. Skinny jeans and $100 dollar flannels have taken the place of hard earned furs. We battle over the slightest offenses, tearing up over trigger warnings, and pleading with our social media contacts to understand our plea.
We have forgotten toil and trial and instead seek out easy fixes and disposable relationships. We have time to find flaws in each other but lack the will to work on ourselves. Fall reinforces my reflective nature. I take stock over months gone by—where I need to improve, where I need to stay the course, where I need to leave the path.
It is the time to hunt within.
The time to clad in bow and fur and tackle the stag of unwillfulness.
We meet the Lord of Hunt in order to prepare for the Lord of Death.
We do this lest we meet the end unprepared. We work in order to blossom or we shrink away in order to close the door of opportunity.
Editor: Dana Gornall