By Alex Townley
SHE died in the Autumn, which worried me for a time, sitting at her bedside recounting how the cyclamen had just come out as she struggled for breath. I thought that maybe I would come to resent the season for her dying, when it had been her favourite, but it turns out that I’m watching this year as the colours change into beautiful rich reds and golds, and faded yellows, and slowly build up in a carpet under my feet on each walk I take through my village, and each crunch underfoot is reminding me of her.
Autumn always makes me think of Robert Frost poems, which maybe fit in with her going, ‘nothing gold can stay’ and all that, but she preferred the rosy cheeked cheerfulness of Keats, endlessly quoting ‘seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness’ absent of the rest of the poem, until it became a part of her.
She celebrated her love of Autumn, which I suspect was really a love of trees, by growing a small forest in her suburban back garden, and looking out of my lounge window I still regret buying a house too small to plant trees of my own, grateful for my neighbour’s cherry, which is yet to yellow with the season despite the convincing argument from nearby horse chestnuts.
She went to Boston one year, to see ‘the Fall’, which she said in her own terrible attempt at an American accent, the same one she adopted on our Autumnal trip to New York, the year after 9/11 when after an overly enthusiastic open top bus tour, she couldn’t stop herself from saying ‘New York’s Finest’, and New York’s Bravest’ so that I began to think us getting beaten up on the subway was an inevitability.
She was taken by the geography of it all, the Fall, how you could outrun it by travelling south, or get sucked into Winter by heading too far north, but I think she preferred the British Autumn, which has less of a vastness to it.
And it was a good time to die although it didn’t feel it at the time. She went as everything else was going. Everyone said it was a wonderful Autumn that year.
But I worried she would fall away over time.
Now, without her for nearly a year, with life moving on, and Autumn returning inevitably. I’ve come to a realisation. I’ve remembered her love of Autumn more than the pain of losing her. I’ve remembered her love of leaves turning, and Keats poetry, bonfires, roasting chestnuts, and the bite of wind on her face.
It is our job to pass on to as many people as we can, a profound enthusiasm for all the things we love. Because I suspect, one year in, that is what will endure of us, more than our living, or our dying. Our loving lives on.
Each falling leaf, every year, will hopefully bring her back to me, stupid accents, bonfire obsession and all.
Like the Autumn trees, those things never really die, they just lie dormant for a while, waiting for warmth to bring them back.
I think. I hope.
© Alex Townley 2016