I don’t know why, but tonight this little post is on my mind.
I wrote it almost a year ago, but it feels like it was meant for today… Right now… In this moment.
Summer opens wet and green: foolish as first love.
Each leaf unfurls, fearless of frost. It cannot imagine such a thing as Winter.
I have a certain memory:
I am just a girl — nine, maybe ten.
I am balancing on the long railing that runs around our family’s big raised deck. One foot in front of the other, arms outstretched for balance, I walk a slow circuit, over and over again: amazed at the feeling of fitting my body carefully between two invisible planes, the crossing of which will send me tipping into a fall.
(I like to test my edges).
There are trees in this memory, and there were trees in real life: a high green canopy at the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp, each ancient oak and cypress shaking so many leaves that the air sounds full of applause.
My father is there, pruning a hedge or cleaning a grill, building something — I can’t remember now. And he is musing.
I am not really listening to him … not actively, anyway. He talks both to himself and to me, teasing out the edges of certain thoughts, small hypotheses that make him curious. We are both this way: people caught in a current of ideas that interest us. So he talks and I walk, shifting my center of gravity to my hips, then to my knees, raising myself onto the balls of my feet. I am testing all the ways that my body can veer from its clean straight line and still remain upright.
I lift an index finger.
I balance on one foot.
I move from one balletic position to another: testing, testing.
And then my father’s voice breaks through my thoughts:
As soon as we’re born, he says, we’re already beginning to die.
There is no fear in his voice when he says this — he is not a fearful man, my father. Just curious. The only thing I can sense in the words … is wonder.
As soon as we’re born, I think, we’re already beginning to die. I test out the thought, and it feels true. And also safe.
A breeze ruffles all the green leaves around us, lifts the hair on my head, the tiny hairs on my arms. I move my body through the green air and I feel the power of my own physicality, without the maturity yet to understand that this is what I am feeling.
This, I think, without the words to describe what I’m thinking. This — all of this — is what dying feels like.
And also living.
This is the very first moment when the edges begin to dissolve for me: when the membranes begin to seem comfortably porous.
On the narrow railing, I walk faster, more fluid. All the air around me parts to let me pass.
A week ago, I am driving down a country road that hugs tight to the curves of the river.
The road runs long through a tunnel of trees, and I am driving behind a tractor trailer, its top so high that it lops off all the low-hanging limbs as it goes, sending a shower of leaves all around me.
We drive, and drive, and the bits of leaves skitter over my hood, slap my windshield. I think, then, that if I could take this picture in black and white, it would look like Winter: my headlights cutting a swath not through leaves but through snow, the white flakes floating and spinning in the beams.
I take a breath, and consider, how narrow the divide between one thing and the next: Winter and Summer. Brokenness and Beauty.
And maybe there’s no divide at all.
My foot eases the gas pedal closer to the floor and I feel the car surge forward toward the bumper of the tractor trailer, see the torn leaves fall thicker and faster, a blizzard of green just cut clean from the stem.
I am thirty-three now. Old enough to feel the way my days are numbered. Still — if I take a breath, I can feel my lungs expand to eat the air, my heart pushing the oxygen through me so that it pulses in my fingertips against the steering wheel.
I am a broken thing, and I am breathlessly, astoundingly alive… ❤
This time of year, I can’t watch a single leaf spiraling to earth without thinking of a certain special poem by E.E. Cummings …
Strung together like a necklace of cranberries on a thread, his letters make up what I consider to be the most exquisite little poem I’ve ever encountered:
Oh, friends … may we view each fluttering leaf as a reminder that there are a great many people in our lives who may be lonelier than we know.
Let’s love them well, and invite a few cold souls into the firelight of our winter hearths. ❤
Tonight, as I listen to the wind slide slow around the edges of the house, I think of the season’s first frost, predicted to crystallize over the grass while I sleep.
I think of the way the leaves fall silent, even in the dark …
And I think about this old post — originally published on November 11, 2014.
If, like me, you love Autumn’s color but fear its frost, these words are for you … Hope you go out and find your silver lining today. ❤
Every year, I love watching the leaves turn.
I grieve it when they fall.
But this loss, like every other, has a silver lining.
Just a week ago, when I looked out my back window, I saw our leafy beech and hundred-year oak. A scrubby but golden-leaved maple.
Now, I can see horizon and sky. Range after range of blue hills. I can see all the way across the city to the white tower of the airport, where planes touch down and surge upward, over and over, all day long.
Tonight, I stand at my kitchen window and watch the lights wink on across the valley. In thirty minutes, the whole city will light up and glitter — a river of light, sparkling in the dark. And I wish I could show you a picture of this. I do. But there’s no lens I own that could do it justice. And sometimes, the things you can’t capture on film are the most beautiful things of all.
So tonight you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say this: I am grateful.
Barn’s burned down —
I can see the moon.
Every day, this world tries to tell me, in quiet, ordinary ways, that there is love for me here.
And also magic.
I went on a long walk in the woods yesterday. My mind was cluttered, my heart heavy, but then, this:
… A giant leaf like a valentine: soft as parachute silk.
Today, I’m wishing you a little love just when you need it most… Hope you go out into the green with both eyes open for magic. ❤