Autumn is felt first in the night by the cricket. Listen, out the open window, as the crickets slow their chirp and singing feet, as they give up serenading the pregnant summer moon, as the freckles fade on their tiny soot-masked faces, as they slink back into the splintered shadows and bare hermitages, where cold will come, but not so cold to kill their crunchy pulsing innards. And, so, they are leaving.
The fireflies have gone without saying farewell, too awkward to meet my eye. They flashed as we stood at the door in August, their last gaze unfocused and distant, not meeting my presence flush with genuine light or humorous departing touch. The fireflies gave some excuse and fled the party in haste, unnoticed, driving away with their headlamps off. They will regain their courage and try again next May. And we will welcome them back happily.
The moths are dying from their passions. In the heat of the porch lamps they swilled their incandescent brews and fell in love nightly. They tore through every midnight aflame. Sometimes their love was true and pairs floated off over the dark yard grass, and other times their love was false and they were killed by the lamp. The bachelor toads thought them reckless and squatted beneath the lamp, jaded, waiting for moth meteor showers to validate their bitterness. But the resentment of the toads faded, as time allows, and now they sink their warty bottoms in muddy holes near the river. And, yet, still some moths remain. They beat all the romantic notions from their pretty hearts–the ground is covered by a million singed wings–but some will always remain.
Autumn is the sound the owl makes when Katie the cat, sleuthing under a harvest moon, steals his dinner, when on his high limb he fluffs up his feathery coat like a grump and secretly wishes her a nasty winter. We might think poorly of the owl then, we might leave him to be miserable with himself in his solitary tree. He is desolate and isolated and judgmental, and he doesn’t deserve our company.
You think there a mouse that has escaped the owl’s stubborn talons? Who goes home to her little hole beneath the radiator and pens the owl a letter? She has insight and goodwill. She knows his loneliness and is sad for him. She forgives him for all his anger, for all who he seems, and seeks to understand and give him heart. So in her letter she asks the owl about his life, what he remembers, what he feels in the dead of night alone on his limb. She asks him about the beautiful owl lady he once swooned beneath his wing, the hardships he traversed, what his life meant to him. The mouse has marvelous intentions, and let us hope that is enough, because she forgets the owl and never sends her letter.
And so the owl is a ghost to the world, his hate haunting him, his story forever misunderstood, left alone on his limb, forgotten. And this winter the owl will die. And he will be a ghost still. Only now, our hate for him will haunt us.
Mouse, you might still write him a letter and ask how he is. There is still time. We all have many ghosts.
The crickets chirp. The fireflies flash. The moths fall in love and the toads bear witness. The owl is like my grandfather who passed away. And all the seasons are changing.