Maybe every way I’d learned / To deal with the tragedy / Was another junkyard find / Rust-eaten and raggedy

This time of year, I find the seduction of cool nights (finally, cool nights) impossible to resist, and you are likely to find me and my iPod outside. I love running on nights like that, though my soundtrack tends to be a little too melancholy to inspire running at a very admirable pace.

Mike listens to sad music in the fall, too. Well, he listens to sad music all year. For someone so upbeat, he really likes wallowing in sorrow, especially in the fall. And now that it’s September, he’s put in his official autumn soundtrack: August and Everything After. It’s been a while since I’ve heard it, and I found myself humming “Anna Begins” as I transferred the laundry to the dryer last night. I am so easily swayed. My music, though, definitely switches in late summer. I started a playlist in early August that was called “Kari is tired,” and I’ve been listening to it for the past six weeks or so. The “Summer 2007” playlist (usually my playlists have pretty boring names) was a whole lot more upbeat. A lot of “Kari is tired” songs are going on a CD I am making for a CD circle, and I should probably warn them that the mix I have so far is pretty much a downer. I told Mike I needed a few more upbeat songs, and he said, “No, put some more sad songs on there, really push them over the edge.” And you thought he was the optimistic one.

I appreciate that the rhythm of the church calendar gives us space to grieve, instead of asking us to be “up” or “peppy” all the time. This year, especially, I have appreciated that the rhythm of the seasons does the same thing. In spring, I celebrated new life and rebirth and the miracle of the resurrection. Now, autumn means that the world is beginning to die, that we are heading into winter. It’s another Lent, in a way: memento mori. After this past year, I think that autumn will always be a time to grieve, and I like that the earlier sunsets and cooler evenings help me learn to make room for that. And make room for me to learn it.

The truth is that I don’t know how to make room for my own grief, let alone other people’s. I don’t know how to be patient with myself or others when it comes to grieving. I have never been good at dealing with strong genuine emotion. I take refuge in sad music and big plans. I want some kind of process, some steps to follow. I want to make things manageable. For now, the slow decline into winter is going to have to be enough.

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