I never imagined that some of the photos I snapped absentmindedly would become the things that would reopen every facet of a moment, from the smell of the butcher block and the sheen of the sippy cup rings, to the way that the breeze had rattled the loose front screen door. I can hear the echo of that door, the tinny metal scraping on the uneven transom, I can see the rusty droplets on the welcome mat from the many times it barked against my heel.

Watching the girls slip from their baby forms like snakes from a skin, I am, if not in total acceptance, mindful of the months and years ahead. There will be a bus as the air changes in September, it will carry Briar away to see faces I won’t, and to hear and share in conversations that I’ll never hear. There will be name tags on cubbies and lessons I won’t teach, hours will pass each day when not a single girl is waiting, pining for her turn to leave. It’s only preschool and elementary school this year, but each coming year builds speed and each time the door closes behind them we get ever closer to the time when they go to not come back.

I want to hold them tighter as they become more themselves and less echoes of me. They scurry further away, darting this way and that. I am slower, sometimes to let them win, other times because I am less and less the girl and more and more the rememberer.

I was thinking the other day as Sean explained the concept of back-to-school shopping, that there was a time when each September was a heady mix of promise and intrigue. Sometime around late August a switch would just flip and mourning summer quickly became counting the days until autumn. Which teacher, which friend, argyle sweaters, new erasers, Halloween!

I wonder when that goes away. Why is the potent blessing of summer’s end and autumn’s return not celebrated? I try so hard to find ways to hold onto gratitude, patience and acceptance, but why aren’t I trying harder to reclaim the fervor? Having spent the last two weeks careening between a place of grievous harm and a zen state of recovery, I keenly want to revisit those joys of old.

Rather than expecting the same failures or assuming a repetition of the previous year, I am going to hurl myself headlong into the potential of a new season. I am alive, battered and exhausted, yes, but with a renewed passion for this unpredictable life of mine that is as resilient as it is fragile.

I suppose when the newness of this brush with death passes, fervor may be hard to sustain, but I know I’ll never fear or feel shame for my delight or my questing. As the wind carries the scent of wet leaves and singed pumpkin skin, I’ll be standing with my girls, costumed and bright-eyed, witnessing their joy and unleashing my own exclaims of “Oooh” this and “wow” that.

This is the season of back-to-trusting in life’s magic. Can you smell it?