Outside it is chilly, the midday temperatures dropping into the 50’s. Inside I am toasty warm, my bare feet stretched toward the yellow flames that dance in the Franklin stove. Every window of the cabin windows looks out on trees that have dressed in their fall finery; rich leaves of red, ocher, and gold mingle with the green hangers-on. Fat squirrels with fatter tails chatter obliviously as they scamper from limb to limb; the leaves they knock to the ground weave a patchwork carpet on the forest floor.
A cloud descends onto the mountaintop, disappearing the forest. Only the nearest trees are visible now, their muted palette of leaves half-seen in the fog. The squirrels hunker down and the birds stop singing. A stillness so deep permeates the forest that I wonder if the world has stopped spinning.
Sometimes I disappear. I descend into despair so deep and fixated that I cannot touch it. The pointlessness of life, the endlessness of it, overwhelms me. I cannot fathom my reason for being. I think perhaps that I have accomplished everything I came here to do and it is time to cycle off this planet. I have learned to just sit with these feelings, to let them soak into every cell. Resistance is futile. It has taken me years of recovery to understand that it is OK to feel.
A movement outside the window catches my attention but when I look up everything is deathly still and I return to my introspection. Again from the corner of my eye, I see something flash. This time I focus intently on the soft white quilt draped outside the windows. Nothing. Complete and utter stillness. I watch, mystified. Then I see it again. A small shimmering burst of red. Seconds later, another flash of gold. And then another, this time orange. Moisture from the low-lying clouds has condensed into the upturned palms of the leaves. Their cupped hands overflow, allowing fat tears to seep between their wide-spread fingers onto the leaves below. The drop-splashed leaves sparkle like jewels in a snowless blizzard.
I watch, unable to tear my eyes away from the silent drama unfolding before me, and I feel myself rise from the abyss. The beauty of nature is always guaranteed to soothe my savage soul.
Tomorrow I will leave this charmed western North Carolina mountain cabin, bound for Richmond, Virginia, where I will be attending my first ever Writer’s Conference. In preparation I have printed out six copies of my manuscript. I have a meeting scheduled with an agent and have high hopes of receiving positive feedback about my writing. It is quite likely that my recent descent into despair is fear-driven. What if no one likes my writing? Perhaps I will discover that my two-year attempt to become a writer has been nothing more than a fool’s folly. Although I realize it is not a wise idea to base all my decisions on the results of one conference, somehow this event has become a major watershed in my mind. At least now I will arrive in better spirits and I am prepared for whatever the Universe places in my path.