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  • Cynthia Coupe

9 Months Out and Fall…

Updated: Oct 7, 2022

We just entered autumn, the equinox only a week or so behind us. October 7th marks 9 months since Frank died. It’s a Friday, Frank died on a Friday too. 9 months…The day before his 9-month mark I sat outside facing the Noyo River. There was a flock of seagulls flying around…and several Osprey, I don’t know how many, 3? 5?…flying up and down the river. Must have been some fishermen putting out fish or something, but still…I have sat on that river, in that very spot oodles of times, not a single Osprey. It felt prophetic. Frank was there. So was the man I started seeing a month ago, so that felt like a special blessing too. He knew Frank, we were all friends. It feels right, and I believe signs keep showing up to support that.

Lately, I have been reflecting on the turning of the seasons, how this is the last one before we’re back at Winter, the season Frank departed. I’m reminded of what each season brings and the richness in the growth. Fall is my favorite time of year. But, to be fair, each season is my favorite. I am ready for the next at the end of the previous…always welcoming the change. But autumn, autumn holds a special place in my heart.

I was born this time of year, close to the equinox. I am in the autumn of my life, and autumn marks the culmination of what we have reapt, sowed, tended, harvested and preserved that will get us through the last bit of the year. Same for a life. Autumn is ceremony, friendship, and ritual, acknowledging both the work and the play we have engaged in over the year, and taking pause before the last dance of winter.

Frank died in winter. A very dark time, though it was at the turning of the light…January 7th…we had celebrated winter solstice, days were getting longer, light was beginning to seep in. I spent much of my winter unpacking and repacking boxes in the rain…going to the dump in the rain…crying tears in the rain. I was surrounded by dear friends during this process, though I was equal parts alone. I’m not sure how I made it through…I was on autopilot, though everything I was doing was new, new, new. I lit a candle every day and learned to talk with Frank through the flame. Deeply internal, I spent time in nature but I was very slow, even my daughter remarked that she was now faster than me. The smell of the earth kept me upright, moving. Moving: that’s what I spent most of the winter doing. Disassembling the house, going through Frank’s stored boxes…setting the intention that by April I would move from the home we had shared for 5 years. I unpacked memories, set others aside. Called siblings, friends, old lovers…tended to my internal garden while the external one went to seed. I watched the trees sway in the breeze, sometimes that was all I could do…lie on the couch and watch the trees move. People brought food, sometimes I ate, I always fed my daughter. I often left the dogs with the neighbor, too preoccupied and slow to walk them myself. I wasn’t just dancing with grief, I had let grief in, fully and completely, to see what I could find, to see what lay hidden, to make amends with what needed to be transformed. As the light lengthened, so did my stamina. I could mostly return to life, though I don’t even remember what that entailed, exactly. I couldn’t get my daughter to school on time, stopped even trying. All I could do was allow…the path of least resistance was suddenly easy, clear and welcome.

Spring was next. What a kind season spring is. Fresh, new, hopeful. With this came a greater unfolding, learning myself, tentatively unfurling like a fern in the forest. It’s marrow-making for the year, spring is. This season brought with it a move, closer to town, a home close to friends that my daughter and I desperately needed. Somehow (with help, but not enough) I moved our home from the country to town. I drove a giant Uhaul down a bumpy and twisty dirt road, to a narrow driveway and loaded the contents of my life. Not once, but five times. I felt like a badass and I liked it. I was weary to the bone, but I kept going…knowing this had to happen. I attended an Ayurvedic retreat which certainly created some new marrow…deep healing, rest, relaxation and internal grounding. I also went to Colorado and did some internally fortifying work with a somatic sex coach. I excised trauma, looked at love, learned myself and learned how to ask for what I want and need in life. I held Frank’s memorial…cried, hugged, became filled with new hope and longing. Spring allowed me to train a manager to run my business, another opportunity for growth. Somewhere in these months my pace turned faster, I began to run again, on occasion, though much slower than ever before. I observed, felt hope and longed for my love. And then spring turned to summer…

Wild and free summer is…the answer to all of our hard work and the ability to cast aside worry from the toil and tedium of winter and spring. Time to frolic, and find some joy. There was joy this summer, the other side of pain. I finally felt what happiness was again, for in winter I had let that go. How long would it be until my heart could truly feel light again? While I still work towards that, I felt it this summer, even if was there. I went to the final Kate Wolf music festival with friends…Frank and I used to go every year, and we had invited some dear friends to attend this year. They came, and we set up camp with the same other friends we always camped with. It was joyful. A yellow butterfly was a frequent visitor, which felt like Frank. I cried plenty, but I was beginning to feel my sense of self returning, glimpses of Cynthia coming together. I went to Camp Widow, and there I met my people. My tribe of broken hearts that shine bigger and brighter and more tender than they ever were before. That was joyful. That felt ebullient. As I traveled with my daughter by car down the 101 to Los Angeles, I cried nearly the whole way, but smiled and sang nearly the whole ride back. Something had shifted, freed…changed. Summer was glorious. I was tan, took time in the sun, began to run again with more speed and determination. I was also preparing to moderate a panel on neurodiversity for a tech company…this felt expansive and in alignment with what I had worked towards in the winter and spring.

And now it’s fall. I am preparing for the winter, shoring up the internal landscape to prepare for the inevitable darkness. I see where I can put ritual and intention in place. I see how my folding in during winter planted seeds for spring, and how tending those seeds became blooms by summer, which have now dropped into lovely fruits that nourish me with plenty to be stored for winter. It’s a celebration, this season, an acknowledgment of all we have gained and all we have lost. I think there is no coincidence that this is the time of year we celebrate our deceased (Halloween, Dia de los Muertos), our friends and family (Thanksgiving) and make ceremony for equal parts light and dark. In this season I traveled to Philadelphia to present at a conference, to New York to visit family and friends, and soon I will travel to Mexico for a dia de Los Muertos yoga retreat. It feels cozy, inviting, lovely and full of nourishment. I feel fed from the fruits of my labor, and that is a glorious feeling indeed. My daughter is thriving in school…her summer of pure rest has led to resilience, and I’m happy to see that I allowed that seed to be planted, tended and grown. I have returned to running, sometimes 8 miles in a stint, and I think I could do more. There is some walking involved, but mostly running…it’s endorphins like I haven’t really needed before…but they sustain me too. That pure rush that gets not only my blood pumping but also my head clear. I work out a lot of grief on those runs. I talk to Frank, ask the forest for guidance, cry when I need to and listen to a lot of great music.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the seasons as the quadrants to a year, a lifetime…how 4 things make a square, or four pillars for a table…how these quadrants are repeated and reflected in so much. The four elements: fire, air, earth and water…the four pillars of love: Eros (passion), Philia (love of friends), Storge (parental love) and Agape (love of mankind). The four stages of life: Birth, Youth, Adult, Death…Four aspects of life: Spiritual, Emotional, Intellectual, Physical…The four directions: East, South, West, North…and in Native American tradition there would also be four animals and four ceremonial plants one for each of the four directions.

As I look at these various quadrants, I see how each is layered within a season. Spring is the beginning and represents Birth, East, Sun, Eros, Spirituality. Summer is next with Youth, South, Air, Philia, Emotion. Autumn is Adult, West, Earth, Storge and Physical. Winter brings Death, North, Water, Agape and Intellect. There is a time for every season…and I am reminded of the medicine wheel…the ceremonial center representing earth, and her flora, fauna and elements that bring us life and back to death, each part carrying its own wisdom, its own beginning and end, and each part needed for the survival of the whole.

I am reminded of Frank. Of my dear love, the man who held my heart with a great tenderness and deep respect. I think of his connection to the divine, to the earth, our ancestors, and our offspring. Frank was a child of the earth, as we all are, but he also belonged to the cosmos. Moreso each day I believe there is no ownership to a person we love, but a releasing…if they are yours then let them go…we are all wild and free and will come back to what suits us. I feel fortunate I had Frank for the length of time I did…six short years but deeper than I had known before. I am wild, I am free. I am a child of the earth, and I am in touch with the divine. Frank taught me so much, and I take it with me so I can teach others.

I wish you blessings as your autumn unfolds, as you reap your bounty and plan for winter. I wish you warm fires, cozy sweaters, a good book and another body to cuddle. I send you gratitude for being on this journey with me, and for seeing me through in the ways you have. Thank you for being true to yourself and taking care of your loved ones, and the earth. It does not go unneeded or unnoticed.

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