You used to be able to count on September. It had that real ‘re-set’ feel about it, with its smell of new books and the crunch of freshly fallen leaves, not yet sodden with footfall and rain. You’d drag your September boots out from the back of the wardrobe and belt yourself into your September coat and even if you weren’t wearing anything underneath, you’d still look all primed for action.
Like everything else, September has changed. For starters, it’s really not cold enough for boots and a coat. I suppose we can thank climate change for that. Which is depressing because you want to help. Or at least not hinder. So you conserve energy in your home. Your family can put on jumpers if they’re cold. Or, better yet I tell them, lie on the couch long enough and soon you’ll be draped in dog. Gary is many things and lots of them aren’t brilliant but even I have to admit that he’s a moulting, drooling, high-octane hot water bottle. Yes, his breath stinks and no, he has no concept of personal space and will lick your face with the same tongue he used to greet the neighbour’s Shitzu, but still.
Without climactic disaster. Or at least without it being specifically your fault.
Anyway, September. Here’s what used to happen. Temperatures fell. Words like ‘crisp’ were used to describe early September mornings. Kids returned to school, their beautiful, bright faces untroubled by masks. Or worry. Students went to college and fell in love with strangers sitting on the other side of big, draughty lecture theatres and thought Zoom was a pretty childish word to describe the speed of an airplane when it’s taking off. My husband would leave the house with a piece of toast sticking out of the corner of his mouth and go ‘out to work’, a phrase which here means a job in an office that was not a lean-to at the back of your house.
And yes, to be clear, when I say ‘They’ I mean ‘my family’.
In September, I could climb the stairs to the attic where my office is, wearing nothing under my smartly belted September coat, my calves snug and warm inside the soft hide of a leather boot. I don’t actually do that. The coat is too itchy against my bare skin for starters. And after a while, my snug, warm calves become swollen and sweaty. So no. But the fact is that I could. If I wanted to. Because there’d be no-one around to tell me not to. Now, there’s always someone around and even though my youngest has gone back to school, her bright, beautiful face is troubled by a mask and there is an air of uncertainty in the weight of her bag, since the school lockers – and extra curricular activities – are still out of bounds.
I remember sitting at my desk in the olden days, motionless and listening. The sound of silence. What’s rare is wonderful. And it was wonderful. All those Septembers. The ones I took for granted. Along with the peace. The feeling that there was a place for everything and everything – and everyone – was in its place. The ideas that might visit you here, in this space. This quiet space. The muse some people call it. It comes out in the quiet, they say. Sit still and listen and there’ll be a flicker at the edge of your peripheral vision and there’ll she’ll be. Beautitul. Resplendent. Creativity herself. ‘Where’ve you been?’ she might whisper. Not in a reproving way. There’ll be more of a yearning in it. You sit perfectly still. You don’t move. Even if your September coat is chafing against your collar bone. You wait. Ideas trickle in. It’s like a spring tide that has been full out, rippling in over warm sands. You splay your toes in anticipation.
The truth is, I miss the quiet. I know, I know, poor me, right? Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve – oh-so-slowly – gotten the hang of writing in a house where noise lives. And reigns. But just because you have adapted to this ‘new normal’ doesn’t mean you have to like it.
I do not like it.
I miss the Septembers of yore. There was something so jaunty about them. So full of themselves. So fresh and open to the possibilities.
I know they’re still there, in the wings, waiting for the pandemic to take a bow and exit, stage left. There will be no standing ovations. No shouts of ‘Encore!’. The curtains will fall and that’ll be a wrap. Without the wrap party. It won’t be long, will it? What with the success of the vaccine, the rollout of which has been greeted as enthusiastically as the TV adaptation of ‘Normal People’.
It’s just a matter of time. Isn’t it? Until we can all get back to normal? Or maybe even a better-than-normal normal?
Until then, my September coat and boots will remain on standby in the wardrobe. I know I will have occasion to wear them once again.
This is my wish for all of us.
Is mise le meas.