Maybe it's the planetary takeover by the electoral process in the USA. Maybe it's the wind and chill and rain. Maybe it's the cloudy semi-darkness - or the sappy movie playing on the TV. Whatever it is, it snuck up behind me and clobbered me over the head. Just now. All of a sudden, I'm in the mood for winter again! It's still fall. It's not time yet. But this year, today, I am all at once in the mood to plan meals and light candles and hunker down, and really, deeply, feel the passage of time. It's barely November, and all at once, I'm ready.

I bought this magazine the other day. Didn't seem to be able to stop myself - or to want to.

It's not just that I'm eager to have the college boys home - and perhaps the married couple, but we'll see about that. It's not just that I really do enjoy cooking for Thanksgiving or that I am ready to tweak a couple of recipes (but I'll have to be careful because a great hue and cry goes up if I change things too much -- a hue and cry (Latin, hutesium et clamor, "a horn and shouting") was a process by which bystanders were summoned to assist in the apprehension of a criminal who had been witnessed in the act of committing a crime.)

Something new to me has now come to me. This year there is not only the familiar and vague sadness of nostalgia. There is also a new found realization that the losses in life - the irrecoverable and permanent kind, I mean - those losses are the part of life that give a depth perception to perceptive. There must be ground before something can come to the fore. Some things cannot be seen until the contrast is high enough, and it is the accumulation that fills in the background - turns up the contrast. I didn't know this when I was younger.

I did not know that the griefs and losses, large and small, fair and ordinary or heinously unfair and extraordinary, deserved or undeserved, would begin to gather, one pixel at a time, and conspire together to turn up the contrast in my life. Little by little, the picture has grown sharper. Clearer. And I know this cannot happen by means of brightness only.

It used to make me feel a bit guilty and confused - that I had a lot of brightness and not much contrast in my life, I mean. It was obvious that there was a lot of suffering and pain in the world, and it was equally obvious that my little bits and pieces of it were next to nothing. Not really. I was not hungry or cold or neglected or ill or lame. I was not hunted or tortured or anything else. My pouting was just pouting. I knew it. And I wondered why. Why should I be so privileged when so many are not?

Mostly, it's still true. Mostly, I'm still well and safe and warm. I am even still healthy, thank the good Lord and the inventors of the ultrasound machines. Mostly, my pouting is just pouting, and I know it. But I no longer wonder why. There is no answer to that question - not one I could understand, anyway. But I do say thank you.

The thing is, though, this year, the losses filling in the background of my life are showing me something else. This is something new. This year I want to cook - or watch a movie to mark the season - or make things - or observe holidays -- not because I feel nostalgic, and not because I want to grab this moment because it passes too quickly and might be gone too soon. I think the contrast pixelation has had the effect of showing me my own part in the music. It's as if the light has begun to focus on my line - the darkness obliterates the edges and I cannot see past my own music stand.

I wonder ... is midlife when we leave the audience or finally get to come out of the rehearsal sessions and into the orchestra pit? It feels like that. This time of my life feels like enough clarity illuminating my own part, and enough trust in the other musicians and in the Conductor Himself ... enough trust in the makers of music that I can concentrate on only my own part in it. There is a full awareness of my own rehearsal time and my own readiness ... now I know when to play my own instrument so that it adds to the music.

That's why I want to cook for Thanksgiving dinner and do the ironing and write my papers for school. That is my part in the music. The music plays with or without me, and I know it. I got the privileges in this world, and I know that too. I have had the luxury of instruction and time for practice. To this privilege I add awareness.

Obviously, I still have some thinking to do here. This post is a bit of a metaphor mash. I cannot quite tease apart the elements and smooth them into fibers --- !!! There's another one! A dead giveaway, that is. Whenever the metaphors are still thick and tangled, I know I'm not there yet. But I can see it from here. Hear it from here. Loss has turned up the contrast, and the contrast has made is more easy to see my own part. And I choose to play it -- because the music itself is good.

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