“Sad, so sad, those smoky-rose evenings, smoky-mauve evenings of late autumn, sad enough to pierce the heart.” Angela Carter
These fine fall evenings when the sunsets fire up — our version of the Northern lights — and you can detect an under note of winter in the breeze, I find myself happily melancholy. Maybe that sounds like a contradiction, but just as black tree limbs are starkly outlined against vivid orange skies, memories of the past come to the front of my mind — present as at no other time of year. They are unsorted, simply tumbling over me like photos spilling out of a shoebox, some black and white, some still Kodak-colored. I think about talking on the phone to the lover I’d just broken up with, staring out the window at a bleak autumn afternoon and a bedraggled wet squirrel huddled in the rain on a tree branch. The loss, the hopelessness, the anguish of that moment are still fresh and painfully sharp. I remember nights lying on my stomach in front of the fireplace at my grandmother’s house, lost in a book, snug and safe in that lost world, still innocent and unconscious of the many times my heart would break in the future. And even though the smell of burning leaves is no longer commonplace, it comes back to me undiluted, carrying visions of saddle shoes, a caramel sundae on a fall afternoon shared with a lanky golden boy I almost dated, wool skirts tentatively raised by my football player boyfriend in the back seat of a car parked on a gravel road. Those memories do pierce my heart with sadness but also with gratitude for their beauty, for the intensity of feeling that, unlike old Polaroids, never becomes washed out or faded.