A cloud of fallen red and yellow leaves now floating together on top of black water

Fresh start

I love the fall. It’s a time of year that feels clean to me. A fresh start. Crisp, cool air, and a rearranging in nature. Although shortly things will settle in for a deep, frozen sleep, now they appear alive with vibrance for one last spectacular show.

Fall also signals the start of a new school year. As a student and as a teacher I always found myself full of fresh energy in September. The halls of schools everywhere all abuzz with people excited and anxious about what is to come, but not yet weighed down by assignments, tests, and grades.

And now, living on the side of a river, there are so many other sigs of this fresh start. Birds flock together to find food and regroup before their incredibly long journeys south, not yet burdened by surprising weather and unknown obstacles ahead.

And with the birds happily preparing to migrate, there is also one last swim for the salmon, which in turn attract the fisher-people. I have really come to love the sight of the fisher-people along the riverbank.

Every fall they arrive in the early morning, hoping their bait is the most delectable to the passing fish. It is comforting to see the same weathered faces return each year, through hardships and most recently, pandemic. I don’t know their stories, but some of the vehicles parked along the road look worn, and badly in need of repair.

Some familiar characters sit on overturned buckets, some stand. Some have long white beards and seem to always have a story to tell. Some are dressed warmly in handmaid toques and red and black checkered flannel, while others sport their top-of-the-line camouflage waterproof gear.

Occasionally new faces arrive, and I wonder to myself if they’ve heard tales of the mighty catch or if they were driving past and just wanted to be a part of the ritual.

The new faces don’t ever seem to have the same patience to show up and wait, year after year, through the wind, rain, and sometimes snow like the regulars do, but they join in the waiting game for a day before finding a new fishing hole or going back to their day jobs.

Fall by the river makes me think of Heraclitus’ general sentiment that river you step into, is not the same river you stand in.

I don’t know their stories, but I know this is a sign of another fresh start.

The familiar few settle in, not yet worried about what winter will bring, and remain until the salmon stop swimming.

I smile as I cross the bridge, and they say hello before carrying on with their autumn ritual.

I want to acknowledge that I live, work, and play on the traditional land of the Anishnaabeg people. The Anishnaabeg include the Odawa, Ojibwe, and Pottawatomi nations, collectively known as the Three Fires Confederacy. As a white settler on this land, I am working to honour the land and to continue to learn from Indigenous values and teachings. Miigwech (Thank you).

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