Nature brings to every time and season some beauties of its own. – Charles Dickens
It was a dark and stormy night…the Gales of November…and all that bleak autumn jazz. Just thinking about winter sent shivers through me, as there I was – gazing, mesmerized, at the swirling early November weather pattern across the TV screen, and listening to the howling winds outside…as predicted…move voraciously through the Great Lakes.
Those were real Gales of November lashing the Lake Michigan shore, with weather forecaster tales of 20-foot waves crashing over the lighthouse piers, gnawing away at the dunes. I wondered what my father-in-law would be thinking about being back in his lake shore hometown after 36 years in Florida, with winter on the way, knowing soon it would be difficult to get outside for fresh air and walking. He’d have to be content with walking the hallways of his independent living complex.
I got to thinking about winter and seasons of our lives. How do we prepare for winter in that sense? How do we winterize our hearts for the long road? We winterize our homes, our cars, boats and recreational vehicles. But how do we prepare ourselves to stand up to weather the winter weather–the long, snowy months ahead, or the so-called golden years and beyond.
Then came that episode of gorgeous warm days – days so magical, so golden, dreamlike, that you wish they could go on forever…like the summer wind that came blowin’ in from across the sea. Ah… Indian Summer. Warm summer-like winds brought memories of the popular 1965 hit song, Summer Wind (by Heinz Meier, lyrics by Johnny Mercer) recorded by Wayne Newton and then Frank Sinatra.
Sinatra’s Summer Wind always sends shivers through me, just like Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The shivers are different, though, but meaningful in the perspective of a lifetime. This November I found myself thinking of Indian Summer within the perspective of a lifetime…mine.
The lyrics are meaningful, because of where I lived in 1965, the year I graduated from college. The St. Clair River was my stomping grounds, and so… I was totally immersed in a wonderland of summer winds and freighters plying the waterways. I grew to love the ships on the river, and missed them when we moved away.
I grew to love being a Michigander. Haling from the middle of the mitten, yet appreciating the connection of the Great Lakes all around me at the bend in the St. Clair. There the river flowed their waters. You can feel it in this Gordon Lightfoot verse:
Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings in the rooms of her ice water mansion, Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams, The islands and bays are for sportsmen, And farther below, Lake Ontario takes in what Lake Erie can send her, and the iron boats go as the mariners all know, with the gales of November remembered.
When the gales of November stir you up to remember, which memories will they be? The Indian Summer wind coming in between the Gales of November are like a little window of Great Lakes enchantment, enticing you to mull over memories….nostalgic days gone by…trying to hold on to them. I know I’ve been writing a lot lately about looking back. Lots of things have happened to make me think that way. Thinking in terms of past decades, and generations…groups of folks who were in my life, but are now part of the past.
When you get to this point in life, when you begin thinking you’re in the Indian Summer of your lifetime, it’s natural to find yourself looking in the rear view mirror. I’d like to think this is a transition for awhile though, and not a recurring theme. The 50-years-ago thing will hopefully wear itself out soon. But, maybe not.
For example, this month of November, I noticed in our hometown paper that the mom of one of my high school friends was celebrating her 100th birthday. I’ve been thinking a lot about centenarians this year, because I recently lost a nonagenarian friend who was just four years shy of that mark. My father-in-law is amazingly close, with a little over a year until his 100th birthday.
Marcy’s mom’s birthday notice appeared in one paper, and just a couple weeks later there was her obit. Her mom died two days after her party. That kind of thing seems to occur often, I’ve noticed. My mom died ten years ago, just two days after celebrating my nephew’s wedding.
Thinking of Marcy got me to thinking of my friend Margaret, who lived next to Marcy growing up in my hometown. Margaret, I heard recently, is in a home with Alzheimer’s. Another high school friend has it as well. Alzheimer’s runs in my family; you bet, I’m scared.
In a way, the scourge of Alzheimer’s seems almost like that terrorist group (which I choose to NOT name) which plotted the siege in Paris also in this month of November. Here are two things that seize us with fear…and what are we going to do about it? Both are like the Gales of November, ravaging humanity in their own way, sinking our boats on the sea of life, or the Ships of State on our common global sea.
It seems odd, in a way, for me to be thinking of centenarians, Alzheimer’s and terrorists this November. But, maybe it’s a good thing. Maybe it’s about time I developed a strategy for combating the terrorist that is of my own making, from my own mind. It’s so easy to be grasped by fear of the unknown.
This November, I noticed (besides the bad, sad and horrible things and events) that people were buoyed up by our wonderful episodes of Indian Summer. At least that’s what I’ll call it. A few days of Indian Summer helps. A few days of Indian Summer in November ratchets up your confidence, that maybe you can weather the storms…if you just remember the good times. Memory is the key.
Here’s what I want to remember: Indian Summer times, when everything seems in harmony. There’s an intoxicating brew of sweetness in the air; you want to hold on, breathing it in before it drifts away like perfume.
My big black kitty loves to loll in the grass, looking all around, enjoying the warm breezes. He’s in the winter of life now; and I’ll always have that memory of him… just being, like cats do… in full appreciation of the sweet summer wind.
It will drift away, of course. The autumn wind breezes through the trees, blowing leaves sky-falling to the still-green grass. A hint of winter resounds in its tone. Different than summer, the wind doesn’t linger. No, instead it wants to transform, to stir up.
This November, thrown into this strange cauldron of stormy sea gales and summer winds, came the first, and record-breaking, wintry snow dump on these parts. Things got really stirred up. When things get stirred up, when turbulence ruffles the surface of calm seas, you know that change is coming. You know, too, that courage is that elusive thing you need to summon.
Courage will help you take the next big step, my fortune cookie said.
My daughter and I were sharing Chinese at lunch one sunny October afternoon, while they were back home before heading to Mexico for another winter on their boat. I was glad she was home to go with me to a lab test, as I begin taking steps forward toward a more integrated health and lifestyle path.
Courage will help you take the next big step. Fitting, I thought, with all these transitions going on in our family. That week will be forever etched in my memory: shopping and enjoying Chinese with my daughter. And on another day, lunch with her and my new daughter-in-law at a charming, eclectic local eatery. That was a first…and fun time …just the three of us.
Treasured moments like that, I think, are personal Indian Summer memories that can help us navigate the waters, to take the next step, to face the autumn wind and the winter wind as the song goes. Paying attention to our memories, like our dreams, can be a game changer.
Despite the chance of being overly nostalgic, I’m a believer in the power of memories. Maybe our memories can play tricks on us, but also they can be tools for navigating the seasons of life. We may not exactly remember all the details, but we love sharing them. I noticed this on Thanksgiving Day, the first time our son and daughter-in-law hosted the dinner with our two families.
Everyone tuned in to the childhood family stories that day. I noticed, because I’d been thinking a lot about memories and their purpose. What do we choose to remember? The Gales of November? Or the sweet harmony of its Indian Summers?
Just before the holiday, a movie (The Martian) and a play (Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol) created new memories and more reflection on life’s seasons. Winter of life scenes sent more shivers, as I watched Matt Damon grapple with being the lone being on the planet. Imagine being alone, totally alone with yourself… a castaway for months or years. Imagine your memories. Wouldn’t you want them to be good ones?
Williamston Theatre’s holiday production, Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol by Tom Mula , sent the shivers deeper. The classic Scrooge tale, as seen through the perspective of his partner, Marley, sends shivers of winter, and redemption. In a review of Mula’s book, one reviewer wrote that “Marley and the bogel take the reader on a wonderous journey through Scrooges transformation from curmudgeon to Christmas spirit.” It’s an amazing journey of memories, both good and bad ones.
I didn’t even know what a bogel was until the play. But this delightful ghost or folkloric spirit engaged the spirit of Marley in his quest to save Scrooge’s soul and in the end, Marley’s own. The power and enchantment of memories and dreams comes forth.
A couple of my recent dreams, interestingly, revolved around people I used to work with years ago, just like in the play. Two nights in a row, they startled me. I wish I’d jotted them down, but the feeling seems to be – shades of Marley – that I’m getting a little life review here. In looking for meaning, I imagine it’s because I am looking back a lot, searching for clues to help me travel on ahead.
That’s the beauty and the possibility inherent in memories and dreams. Our memories and dreams are filled with possibilities if we take note of them. I love to look for the possibilities, the synchronicities that engage me as I move along on this life path.
What wine is so sparkling, so fragrant, so intoxicating, as possibility? said Sören Kierkegaard. Like our Indian Summer memories, I believe that remembering the good things, and seeing the possibilities can unfurl the paralyzing fears, that speck of terror in our souls, that can overcome us.
In the bleakness of November, we begin to glimpse the possibilities of winter. We appreciate this time of reflection, knowing we approach the advent of something new. Surely, as Dickens tells us, this time and season has some beauties…and possibilities… of its own.
Williamston Theatre :
Lansing State Journal:
Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald: