It was an absolutely spectacular morning when Jazz, our golden retriever, and I left for our walk. Of course, it was difficult to know what to wear after listening to the weather forecast; Would it rain, snow, or would the sun shine? Weird, weird weather. Nonetheless, our path takes us close to home and through the woods so there would be some shelter and a quick escape to shelter if the need arose. A t-shirt sufficed for me. I strapped Jazzy up to her leash and she danced around happily as I tied my shoes up – double knots every time – and closed the front door quietly behind me.
The heat was just beginning to build. I had taken my cell phone in case a Kodak moment arose, but no glasses. They simply suck in the hot weather between foggy up and slipping off my nose. Whatever Kodak moment came along, it would have to auto focus for me.
It wasn’t long before Jazz and I rounded the corner to enter the Bear Creek Wetland. A tsunami of colour hit us – much to my delight. I stood still – just for a moment – to soak it all in. The thing about fall is that it is so ephemeral. If you don’t absorb the beauty right there and then – it would be gone. And no two years are ever the same. I took a snapshot of the scene in my mind We walked on further and down into the wooded area. The fall smells caught me by surprise. The previous day and night’s rain had mixed with the few early fallen leaves and the earthy forest floor to produce a scent that it so indistinguishable yet familiar. Earth. The noun became the adjective. The earth rose to my nostrils and I was transported back in time to every fall I had lived since I remember. It was always that same smell.
This would be my 55th fall – and my fifth fall at the same time. It was the fifth fall since my diagnosis. I remember my first fall the most; I wondered if I would see spring, let alone another four falls. Women diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer face some pretty intimidating odds. Only 17 percent of us with this diagnosis live five years. This fall – my fifth – would be my second most memorable.
The pond was full. There were ducks and geese everywhere and everyone of them squawked like there was no tomorrow. It seemed they became territorial over the pond locations once again. Nesting in the spring and departing in the fall seem to be the most valuable times for real estate selection. It is when the water fowl are most active, when Jazz chooses to follow rather than lead our walk together. “The great defender” is a bit selective in terms of the amount of risk she is willing to take to defend, but we made it. We walked down the moisture-laden boardwalk, through the frost-touched reeds, and the mounds of dirt that the muskrats had packed into the slats of the wood which formed our bridge over the pond. I saw no turtles but wondered if they would be coming back out of their mud huts to catch today’s last gesture of heat from the sun? They could profit from a day like today.
The humidity was building. I wished I had worn shorts instead of jeans. Jazz seemed to being feeling the heat too as her panting grew louder and faster.
We made our way along Tiffin, past the traffic of Patterson, to reach the oasis of the Bear Creek once again. “My fifth fall,” I marveled once again. “Imagine.”
It is moments like these when one takes stock of one’s life to evaluate contributions, significance, mistakes, situations. “Have I been a good wife? Have I been a good mother? Have I been a good friend?” I have most certainly done my best to think about what that term “good” meant. And by being more contemplative about it – maybe I had been “better” at it? Being mindful brings more purposeful results, that’s for sure. My energy has been my biggest challenge over the past while. Fatigue. It. Just. Sucks. I had tried to pace myself. I tried to save my energy for the things in life that I value the most and to not use it frivolously on anger, or spite, or conflict. Of course, no one is perfect. But there is no “one” way in life that is clear. There are multiple right choices – and multiple wrong choices too.
My fifth fall. I guess something went right to get me there? I guess there was something more I needed to do? I guess…
Four winters. Four springs. Four summers. But this – this was my fifth fall.
The fifth fall session of taking in the summer patio furniture, seeing my kids go back to school, cooking a Thanksgiving turkey, clearing out summer clothes to make room for winter clothes, changing from air conditioning to heat, watching the leaves change from green to glorious golds and reds… and giving thanks for the many, many gifts of family and friends. And of course, my walking partner – Jazz.
We walked home without much ado, Jazz and I, rounded the corner to our street and along the sidewalk to our house. I had worked up a sweat and Jazz seemed to be quite content to sprawl on the cool tiles in the front hall. I didn’t care much that she was dirty. I knew the sand which had clung to her for the ride would dry and fall to the floor around her eventually. And I’d need to get the vacuum to clean the house anyhow so – what the heck. There would be more dirt and more wet paws coming soon. After all, it was fall.