Sit in the grass.

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Still smelling of bonfire smoke and spicy cider, we decided to walk through the woods to the pond on our friend’s property. It was Halloween night, cloudy and cool, and the moon was a smudge of white against a matte navy sky. Tree branches and spider webs crossed our path artistically as we followed the flashlight.

I love being outside at night. The world is quiet and slow and there is more room to breathe.

The trees gave way to open grass, and the water came into view. Silhouettes of pine trees were reflected in the still water, and my friends’ faces held a bluish glow in the moonlight. I couldn’t help but sit in the grass and take it all in.

The pond was like so many others I’ve approached in the moonlight. The air was like so many other October nights. For nearly 22 years I’ve sat in damp grass and looked at watercolor skies just like that one. But this year, more profoundly than ever before, with familiar autumn air and rainy mornings have come wave after wave of nostalgia. And it’s not the gentle nostalgia of postcards and photo albums, but the heavy kind.

I’m struck constantly by the weight of life and all its change, of things lost and gained, of new and old and the balance of the two. This year has been a mile marker, progress made. But to go forward you learn to leave a lot of things behind.

I love the moving forward, but I so hate to leave.

And I sat by that pond remembering so much all at once. I remembered the fields I grew up playing in, the curious kid I was, the grandfather who always answered my questions with a punchline. Bonfires and hayrides in the braces and bootcut jeans of middle school. Family trips to mountain cabins and roasting marshmallows in our backyard.

With all those things, I remembered tears and hurt and arguments. For better or worse, I remember life as it really was. Life as it remains today. Because a single day, a single moment, can’t be contained in an emotion or a smiling photo in my Facebook memories.

Life is nuance. Life is the smudged greyish moon, the fuzzy distant trees, the rippling surface of an unfamiliar pond. It is joy alongside of pain, like laughter at a funeral or tears at a wedding. It doesn’t follow our rules or make sense most of the time.

But I’m learning to sit in the dewy grass of this season, to do my best to soak up this nostalgia. I’m learning to better appreciate the way my story is woven together by crisp leaves and cool breezes. I am following my friends down tree-lined paths, and I am spinning in the moonlight because I can. With every season, there is beauty and pain. There is much to let go, but there is much to be given. So I choose to let bonfire smoke linger in my hair for one more day, to let a few tears fall, and to carry with gratitude the beautiful weight of memory.