The Mark of Change

Mountain ranges have a way of hooking onto the early edge of the next season, then holding on while the rest of the world adheres to calendar-bound designations. Here in the Black Mountains, it’s as if the peaks snag the first cool wind of late summer and hurl it down their slopes, infecting the valley with the first kiss of fall. Already I’ve noticed the leaves of a buckeye tree turning red. Already the light fades after 8 p.m. when just last month it seemed still light out after 9.

The same thing will happen at the blurry edge of fall and winter. Those peaks will hook a low pressure system moving across the western part of the state and hold, hold, hold those clouds in a frigid embrace. I’ve seen it many mornings – the way a blanket of clouds settles across each peak mirroring the ridgeline perfectly. This formation is always a sure sign of a chilly morning and usually means frost up on the peaks. By late winter it means heavy frost down in the valley as well.

I have done two 24-hour fasts back to back to mark this transition (meaning I ate dinner to mark the halfway point). If I limit physical activity, my body responds well to fasting and somehow seems to understand that this marks change. Habits are willing to give a little and sometimes break. A new perspective takes hold. I breathe a little differently.

This transition marks not just the tease of fall but the end of summer schedule at the craft school (and therefore the end of insanely busy crowds). More importantly, it marks a change in my perspective as a writer: the work I am doing for the MFA is the work of collecting tools for my writerly tool bag. If I have an agenda to press onto that degree, for example over-focusing on a book concept, then I will be kicking and screaming for the next two years. I must live as a sponge, soak it all up, and trust that my voice – the one that comes out unadultered here, for example – will not fade in the face of all the MFA greatness. If I can keep this voice in practice it can only get better and will always be there for me. Meanwhile, the work I do for my advisor will need to adhere to a more experimental style – testing and toying with all the new tools I’m picking up along the way.

The deal is done, the pact is secure, I’ve fasted to mark the occasion. Let the soaking and falling begin.

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