I’ve mentioned before that fall is my favorite season. It seems natural to observe and contemplate the cycles of life and death during this season. Sometimes I’ve paid those changes an almost superficial, cursory glance, while busy with life. Other times autumn seems to grab you by the head and force you to heed its lessons.
In the spring I mentally marked a cluster of new leaf buds on the tree next to the house and I’ve curiously watched them throughout their life cycle as they grew into leaves, performed their job of photosynthesis, and then started changing colors as the tree shuts down for winter. It’s admittedly a silly thing to do, to watch and philosophize on leaves, but hey, I’m an at home parent- there’s not that much else going on to mentally challenge me.
This week one of the leaves in that cluster dried up and dropped off of the branch. I was fortunate enough to see it happen, and while it made the short trip from the branch to the ground a hundred thoughts went through my mind.
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The leaf turned over on the breeze and I thought of my daughter- how she turned three this year. She’s definitely passed from any semblance of a baby and is well into childhood. My heart simultaneously swelled with pride at her accomplishments and ached with knowing that she was turning into her own, independent person. I guess it makes sense that the larger your heart grows the more it can ache, but geez, it hardly seems fair.
The leaf turned over again and I thought about my daughter’s school- how the first month she hated it, but how she’s starting to make friends and enjoy it now. It’s been a slower transition than I would have thought, but it’s actually happening.
I watched the leaf turn over again in the breeze and thought of a friend and neighbor who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly last week. One morning he was fine- less than 24 hours later he was taken from us because of an organ complication. He is, and will continue to be, greatly missed by all of his family and friends.
The leaf turned over again. I thought about my parents and how, when I was growing up it seemed I’d never be an adult, and now suddenly I am. But it's really not so sudden. But-gosh-it hasn't seemed that long. I remembered spending time with my grandparents and how old they seemed- and realized that this must be how my daughter will perceive my own parents.
At long last the leaf hit the ground and I remembered something I’d read in a book by Bill Bryson. About how the atoms and elements that make up the human body and the world as we know it were created by supernovae.
Explosions of stars.
And how every atom you possess has almost certainly passed through several stars and been part of millions of organisms on its way to becoming you. And how a significant number of our atoms—up to a billion for each of us—probably once belonged to Shakespeare. A billion more each came from Buddha and Genghis Khan and Beethoven, and any other historical figure you care to name.
And just as many came from leaves probably just like the one that captured my attention for that brief moment in time worth a hundred thoughts.
And how, actually, in spite of my best spring intentions all of the leaves look the same to me and there's no telling if the one I watched is the same one I saw budding or not.
Oh well oh well.
Which, possibly, is another lesson in and of itself.