Design by Helen Huynh

I don’t quite know what to call this time in my life 
It’s fall. I knit a sweater. I keep a bag of apples from a sunny day next to my bed, and they wake me up like an August sunrise, hard and sweet. I write everywhere I go—I bite my nails and pull strange winding threads through the pages of my notebook. The trees outside my window have recently lost their godhood—they are mortal beings now, turned orange and gold in their old age, wrinkles lining their faces, smiling in the pale afternoon. I think about home a little less. I feel like I think about nothing at all. My parents’ lives have moved on, my friends have different friends in different places. (Q: What makes a stranger? A: My mom remade my bed with different sheets.) I am softening. It is fall and I soften, I let things enter and grow from me. The gentle 4:00 p.m. glow of my dorm settles under my skin, alongside the outline of the Rockies from my childhood window and the smell of my mother’s hair. I drink tea at night. I eat figs. I wear rings and silver hoops, go for runs late at night, I let myself slip into the thing I never was. 

But I keep returning to the Aspen in my memory 
Picture this: an Aspen tree turned gold by October. Aspens don’t often grow from seed—they grow from each other’s roots, a vast network of tangled births and deaths, scaling the hillside as a single breathing organism. She is a product of her history, of her ancestors’ majesty. Yet, as she grows, she grows apart from all the trees before her: the random scattering of DNA and light and water raise her twisted and bent, her branches drawn to the west, trunk turned east. She is still bound by her roots to the memory of her past. But she is making something new from it. In the spring of a new year, she blossoms into a pale, green thing; in the summer, she expands. In the fall, as the soil turns hard and the air cold, as her leaves shed her bare, she is made human in loss. It’s October and I know my childhood is beginning to shed from me. It’s October and I am gold with mourning.

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