In many parts of the country, leaves are starting to fall…bringing up images of childhood…remembering orange, red and yellow leaves from several sugar maple trees that lined one of the homes I lived in when I was very young.
They were beautiful. They crackled beneath my bicycle tires. I’d press them between pieces of paper and use crayons to come up with masterpieces (at least in my mind).
Years pass and leaves have become more of a chore, raking, bagging and hauling to the curb. Yet I never pick up a rake that I don’t think about how much fun it was to run and jump into a gigantic pile of them. (Always remembering, as Lucy Van Pelt would tell Charlie Brown, “never jump into a pile of leaves with a wet sucker.”)
And leaves also remind me it’s time to let go of the past.
Pack away the summer clothes and get out the well-worn sweatshirts and long socks. Wrestle the comforter back into the duvet. But more than that, it’s a natural reminder that things fall away, plants stop blooming, and people pass away. Life reinvents itself in preparation for the next season.
It’s never been more true for me than this year, as I’ve once again made a major life change.
One of the most beautiful passages about this ever appeared in Bambi, written by Felix Salten in 1923. (Not the Disney cartoon version. This book is a beautifully written, deeply moving look at nature, humanity and life itself.) If you never read it, you might pick up a copy. If you did, perhaps you’ll recall this amazing passage from Bambi that takes a gentle look at death, rebirth and so many of the questions many of us still have even though we’re not children anymore.
The leaves were falling from the great oak at the meadow’s edge. They were falling from all the trees. One branch of the oak reached high above the others and stretched far out over the meadow. Two leaves clung to its very tip. “It isn’t the way it used to be,” said one leaf to the other.
“No,” the other leaf answered. “So many of us have fallen off tonight we’re almost the only ones left on the branch.”
“You never know who’s going to go next,” said the first leaf. “Even when it was warm and the sun shone, a storm or a cloudburst would come sometimes, and many leaves were torn off, though they were still very young. You never know who’s going to go next.”
“The sun hardly shines now,” sighed the second leaf, “and when it does, it gives no warmth. We must have warmth again.”
“Can it be true,” said the first leaf, “can it really be true, that others come to take our places when we’re gone and the after them still others, and more and more?”
“It really is true,” whispered the second leaf. “We can’t even begin to imagine it, it’s beyond our powers.”
“It makes me very sad,” added the first leaf. They were silent for a while. Then the first leaf said quietly to itself, why must we fall?
The second leaf asked, “What happens to us when we have fallen?”
“We sink down…. What is under us? I don’t know,” answered the first leaf. “Some say one thing, some another, but nobody knows.” The second leaf asked, “Do we feel anything, do we know anything about ourselves when we’re down there?”
The first leaf answered, “Who knows? Not one of all those down there has ever come back to tell us about it.”
They were silent again. Then the first leaf said tenderly to the other, “Don’t worry so much about it. You’re trembling.” “That’s nothing,” the second leaf answered, “I tremble at the least thing now. I don’t feel so sure of my hold as I used to.”
“Let’s not talk any more about such things,” said the first leaf. The other replied, “No, we’ll let it be. But what else shall we talk about?” It was silent, but went on after a while. “Which of us will go first?” “There’s still plenty of time to worry about that,” the other leaf said reassuringly. “Let’s remember how beautiful it was, how wonderful, when the sun came out and shone so warmly we thought we’d burst with life. Do you remember? And the morning dew and the mild and splendid nights….”
“Now the nights are dreadful,” the second leaf complained, “and there is no end to them.” “We shouldn’t complain,” said the first leaf gently. “We’ve outlived many, many others.”
“Have I changed much?” asked the second leaf shyly.
“Not in the least,” the first leaf said. “You think so only because I’ve gotten to be so yellow and ugly. But it’s different in your case.”
“You’re fooling me,” said the second leaf.
“No, really,” the first leaf answered eagerly, “believe me, you’re as lovely as the day you were born. Here and there may be a little yellow spot. But it’s hardly noticeable and makes you only more beautiful, believe me.”
“Thanks,” whispered the second leaf, quite touched. “I don’t believe you, not altogether but I thank you because you are so kind. You’ve always been so kind to me. I’m just beginning to understand how kind you are.”
“Hush,” said the other leaf, and kept silent itself, for it was too troubled to talk anymore.
Then they were both silent. Hours passed. A moist wind blew, cold and hostile, through the treetops. “Ah, now,” said the second leaf, “I….”
Then its voice broke off. It was torn from its place and spun down. Winter had come.
I’m grateful for the seasons, and how the light changes with each. I’m grateful for the memories of fall afternoons raking leaves. I’m grateful that for almost a decade, I had beautiful aspens and gorgeous oaks sharing their leaves with me. I”m grateful for the opportunity to see how Fall unfolds in a new zip code. I’m grateful I’m here to see it all.
To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.