Fall is coming. I can feel it subtly beginning to encroach on long summer days. Oh, it’s still 100 degrees outside at the moment during the heat of the day. It continues to remain light until a reasonable hour. But shadows have begun to hang around the edges. There is a whisper of what is to come. Short days, long nights. A slight chill in the evening air. A pulling back. The grass will soon stop growing and will begin to turn brown on the journey to dormancy. Leaves will fall from tree branches, exposing them, stripping them bare, until they are gnarled and empty. As the leaves descend, they will swirl and dance in the cool, stiff breeze driven by clouded skies, skeetering along sidewalks and across lawns, creating piles of decaying mulch, scenting the air. Some will be raked into giant stacks to be bagged and hauled away or burned. Windows will be closed in the evenings. Fireplaces will be lit. The rains will begin. Temperatures will drop. The sun’s penetrating rays will weaken. Life will close in upon itself, hibernating in preparation for the harshness of winter that will soon hold us in its unrelenting grasp. There is still some time for laughter, but…hurry! Play now, while you can! When fall comes, winter is traipsing close behind. And in winter, we will hunker down and attempt only to survive another arduous day. In my life, I am fast approaching winter. Fall has long overtaken me, slowing me down, making some things more difficult. I can still get out and about. But it’s not as easy as it once was. I wear a jacket. I take my umbrella. Some days, it’s chilly and unpleasant. Other days still hold some warmth, a remnant of youth. My heart is weighted down by the fact that the end is now much closer than the beginning. I look at the darkening sky with no small amount of fear and trepidation. I know the sands of the hourglass are waning. I know there is little time left before the darkness settles in. Before I am cradled in the cold bosom of the night. When it was spring, I had such magnificent plans! I escaped my childhood home as quickly as I could for this was the only way to begin the journey to a new life. There was so much before me; so much I knew I would overcome and accomplish! Dreams…they propelled me. Hope infused me. I had a sense of excitement and anticipation was coursing through my shattered spirit. Life surged in my broken bones. Blood flowed through my damaged heart. My mind urged me forward. My soul took deep breaths of air as I prepared to finally LIVE! I had no doubts that I would outrun the darkness, the cold, the nightmares of my childhood. I would leave a mark; make the world a better place, in spite of all the wounding, in spite of all I had to conquer. Summer came too quickly. I basked in its warmth, exploring, still trying to pick up the millions of pieces of all that was broken and fragmented within me. I worked the puzzle over long, sunny days and late into sultry nights. Oh, there were storms. The winds still blew. I was married to a man who frequently told me he didn’t love me, didn’t want me, didn’t see much value in me. He had no drive and so I was the breadwinner, working long hours at difficult, stressful jobs. But I still had hope. The days stretched before me. There was yet time! Time for wonderful things to happen. Time for healing and wholeness and love to blossom, grow, strengthen. Summer is a time of great possibilities. Walking through shady woods. Following creeks to their origin. Watching a variety of plants grow and mature and produce. Uncovering mysteries. Discovering where the clouds come from and watching them blow across the horizon. Figuring out where they went and why. What impact they had on me. Even the rain is welcome in summer, for it is warm and nurturing. It sustains. There is always the promise of so much more to come. There is always the promise of life! Fall does not hold such promise. Fall tells me to prepare because the darkness is coming fast and it’s going to win. I thought I could outrun it. I thought I could overcome it. But in the end, the darkness always has its way. My heart is periodically gripped with terror, contemplating the cold winds that will soon be sweeping through, the frigid temperatures I will soon be struggling against, the snow that will impede my walk, the ice that will sweep my feet from under me. Already, I am hunkering down. My dreams are as dead as the leaves that blow along the sidewalk. My bones are still broken, my spirit is still wounded, my soul is still decimated. Hope has abandoned me as the days have shortened. I shiver and seek warmth, longing for the sun. I can’t believe how small of a distance I have managed to travel. For all my effort, I have accomplished so little. I have not healed. I have not left a mark. I have certainly not made the world a better place. In fact, I have barely survived the passing days and now have next to nothing to show for all of my work and expended energy. I am astounded at how my past has crippled me and kept me from living the seasons of my life that have come before. So little time is left…so little time… I dread the winter. I will not survive it; that’s not in the cards. Regret hangs heavy in the air already. Surely it will choke me into darkness during the murky, gloomy winter nights. I have not yet lived. I so wanted to. I have not been able to work the massive puzzle of my shattered soul. I am still in pieces; the picture is not clear. It may never form a discernible image. Certainly, once I am gone, no one will care too look and ponder the confused patterns and broken pieces. There will be no one to mourn. I am alone at a time in my life that I believed would be full and good and rich. Instead, the nearly barren branches speak to me, touch me deeply, loss and isolation boring into the deepest parts of my being. I have never been loved. I have tried so hard to overcome, yet failed miserably. Everything I have touched has turned to dust. I have lost so much. And now, time is running out. Once my breath is silenced, and my voice with it, there will not even remain a tiny dent in the universe to mark my passing. It will be as if I never existed. I hate winter and all it represents. It squeezes the life out of my heart. And there was so little life there to begin with. It is unbearably sad, the story of my journey. In the end, regardless of how I depart, I fear I will, in truth, die of a broken heart, clogged with pain, regret, longing, despair and loneliness. The winter world is cold and harsh and uncaring. It is relentless. Unforgiving. Oh, how I hunger for warmth, for spring, for summer. But it is not to be. They have slipped through my fingers and from my grasp. The last tiny vestiges of fall are all that is left me. Winter is cruelly, persistently, patiently whispering my name.