No, it isn’t a typo, or a keyboard gone desperately wrong. Don’t be afraid.
It’s just Welsh.
Literally? “Holiday Middle October” In practice? Starts the day before the autumn equinox. Friday, in case you aren’t passionately involved with an almanac.
I love Gwyl Canol Hydref. Love it. I developed a love for it when my life was more seasonal. The spring and summer were busy – a word which here can be translated to mean ‘psychotic’. Traveling all day Friday, putting in two ‘impossible’ days of performing, collecting my so-called income, traveling all day Monday to get home again, spending Tuesday cleaning my equipment, Wednesday putting the home life together, Thursday resting and then Friday? Back on the road again!
And then suddenly…right after the autumn equinox, when things were getting cold and the weather unchancy…I’d go from all that hustle and bustle to nothing at all.
It was rather a shock, the first year. And the second. Especially since my income essentially stopped. But after that? It became something I looked forward to, as I schlepped all that heavy stuff to and from the van, slept shivering amid my gear, dealt with ‘personalities’ throughout the fair circuit, got my stage time pimped by ‘her majesty the queen’ or some scholarly (nerd) type who felt the best time to launch into a long, long, LONG (boring, boring, BORING!) discourse on the historical significance of the song I was performing was in the middle of it! (This, I suspect, is why the fairs began putting bans on performers carrying weapons…)
I’d cling to Gwyl Canol Hydref through the heat and dust and endless stream of people asking if I could play Freebird (sigh) or Greensleeves (SIGH!!), and the brides who, after insisting for six weeks that they wanted nothing but period music for their very expensive period wedding, would gallop up five minutes before their ceremony to ask if I knew Stairway to Heaven. No? How about that song from that movie, you know, the one that goes la lallalalllaaaa laaaaaaa la la laaaaaa la? No? OK, they’d take Freebird… (ARGH!)
I’d cling to the knowledge that it was such a short time. I’d look up the equinox in the almanac. I’d circle it on the calendar. There. Right there. That was the beginning of the end. There’d be one or two little things that would struggle to extend past that date, but overall? That was it. The weather became too unreliable for outdoor fairs, the wedding trade falls off, even parties become few and far between. After all! Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are all looming on the horizon – who wants to throw a bash in mid-October?!
And every autumn, I rejoiced to be at rest. That first free week, sitting in the apartment with a pot of tea and my knitting was sheer bliss. Oh. And a cat. Always a cat. Sometimes two, although then they’d fight and I’d have to separate them – and even then they’d shoot the occasional snide little paw at each other across my lap. Snuggled up beside me, nudging my hand with impatient little heads, demanding long-overdue scratches beneath their chins. Making beds for themselves beneath my shawl, purring frantically with the delight of having their servant back in the fold. (Hmm…wait a second…why is this making me think of my kids?!)
I’d have several weeks of ‘down’ time. Just puttering around, ‘getting around to’ all those things that had been on hold during the season. Organizing, straightening, reading all those books I’d been meaning to read, getting new music, restringing the harp, having the piano tuned. Still busy…just not frantic.
And I’d think. Oh my, how I’d think. I’d think more deeply about Things than at any other time of the year. I’d go for walks among the falling leaves, watch the other people going about their lives, breathe in the scent of autumn and think. About everything from the mundane to the sacred. The nature of the soul. The nature of lasagna.
Those days are long behind me now. The cats are gone (sniff!), as is the laziness of the season. Between having a ‘real’ job and the advent of children, well. There really isn’t a “down” season anymore. They are both constant, and have no hibernation period. It’s like…a fair season that just never ends.
Except that it will. And undoubtedly it will come as a ‘sudden shock’ when it does. Even though I have spent twenty-plus years planning for it and pondering it and ranting about it…it will still be sudden.
The habit of Gwyl Canol Hydref remains with me. I still circle it on the calendar, still regard its approach with eagerness. Even though I remain ridiculously busy, there is some part of me that slows down anyway.
It always seems to be when I find myself stepping back a few paces from my life and really looking at it. When I’m most open to changing what I’ve accepted as a status quo, when I find myself taking a compass reading on Things and deciding if I’m still going the way I want to go.
I watched the sunrise this morning. It was barely chilly in my California kitchen, a tiny hint of the cold to come. I sat with my coffee, listening to the sounds of morning, watching the light growing outside. The last blooms on my rosebushes becoming clearer and clearer, the rustling and chirping of birds. Leaves tumbling already onto the grass, yellow and brown.
The Wheel, turning again to Fall.
Always changing. Always moving. Not stopping to ensure anybody is particularly happy or content. Time keeps moving, each tick and tock bringing us that much closer to the end of our experience here.
What kind of experience we have is largely left up to us.
Life’s journey is going to pass, whether I’ve got my gaze cast down at my muddy old feet or up at the scenery as I walk. I’m going to arrive at the end whether I’ve taken a nice, safe highway or more…interesting paths.
Whether I’ve done my best to come to the end of it saying, “Damn. That? Was awesome!”, or chosen to **sigh**, you know, put up with ‘things’ until they were finally **sigh** over…that’s up to me.
The Wheel will turn, regardless.
And now, dear friends, excuse me.
I’m going for a walk, through the falling leaves, to pick up my children from school. To watch the other walking parents, and breathe in the scent of autumn.
And to think.
H. L. Mencken
22 hours ago