The leaves on the sugar maple in my front pasture are turning crimson. For years, I’ve watched this process, noticing that this particular tree changes its leaves directly from green to red somehow, with no shades of gold or orange in the in-between. When a chill builds in the air, crimson builds from the crown of the tree down until all of it is bathed in red like roses. For most of the year, I barely notice her, but in the autumn, she rivals any summer flower.

There’s a chill in the mornings, the sort that has me in a sweatshirt or flannel until the afternoon sun warms us to almost, but not quite summer temperatures. The crickets are ramping up their songs. Some of the birds have already flown south, our barn swallows and, I think, our hummingbirds among them.

Autumn is settling in like the dusk.

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Summer on the ranch has passed by in something of a blur. Two of my dearest people moved in: one of my best friends, Lauren, moving into my guest house in July, and my boyfriend of almost three years, John, moving in with me in August. And, just like that, my stint living mostly or completely alone out here, one that began well within the confines of my marriage, ended.

Just like that, the burden of this place was spread across several shoulders more than my own.

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Last Saturday, the three of us spent our evening setting up winter hay in the hayloft: 100 bales, putting our total set up for the winter at around 350. Last year, I set up over 500, but I found myself with an abundance of hay at the end of the Spring, enough that I am still working through the last of it.

It’s tricky, figuring out what you need before you need it. If hay hadn’t already proven that to me, 2020 would have with its pandemic, quarantines, social justice, and raging climate issues.

It’s strange. We are suddenly so very aware that nothing is certain. I read somewhere that the exhaustion so many of us are feeling comes from the realization of that reality. It has always been true, but now we are forced to acknowledge it.

It’s been six months since the onset of Covid19. A friend of mine calls anything before that “the before times” and something about that phrase very much resonates.

Remember when we thought it would only last a few weeks? When we thought we could use the downtime to be super productive and accomplish ALL OF THE THINGS? Remember when everyone was baking all of the time?

I’ve gone from quarantine baking to quarantine Weight Watchers. From unemployment (due to the slowdown) to working at home. I’ve struggled with feelings of guilt and inadequacy–so not that different from usual–stemming from the fact that I still can’t quite accomplish everything on my to-do list, even with all of the extra time I sort of have as a result of no commute and, for a while, my decreasing work load.

Does anyone else feel like both everything and nothing have changed?

In some ways, life continues as usual out here. It’s still Autumn, with all of the truths and chores that suggests. We are still setting up hay, still harvesting the last of the garden. Still trying to predict the future, at least enough to figure out how much hay to set up for winter. But, in some ways, it’s all different. No autumn parties or bonfires. No plans to visit the nearby orchard. A hard pass on all but the smallest of gatherings. To me, all of this feels a lot like flying a holding pattern above an airport while you wait to be cleared to land.

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I’m not exactly sure what my point is here. Why I’m writing this…except maybe to break through my writer’s block a little and to remind all of you that our new normal is so far from normal that normalcy should not be expected. In other words, give yourselves a little grace. Maybe even more than a little, if you can manage it.

Now is the time for grace, not only for ourselves, but for each other. Grace for those in pain. Grace for those feeling loss. Grace for everyone we come in contact with. (Sometimes grace for everyone else looks like wearing a mask to protect them. Full stop.)

This too shall pass. Like the summer. Like the autumn. Like all of the best laid plans of mice and me.