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Fallen Leaves

I drive the same road four times every day. The canopy of leaves spreads over me, waving as I go by. Their colors do not change noticeably from April to August but when the first chills of autumn blow through, they are transformed. I say transformed as if it happens in a blink, but actually the shift is subtle enough to ignore it if you have a mind to. It is not hard to stay riveted to the newscaster, or my ipod, or the annoyingly careful driver in front of me. The trees never actually cry out "Look at me! I am different!" It takes attention to appreciate.

At first I wonder if it has actually begun. There are edges of red on the branches, but maybe they were there yesterday. That tree bending over the stone wall seems more yellow than last week, or maybe even this morning. After a few days of the palette sliding from cool green to warm scarlet and gold, I start to feel as if I too want to change. What is it like to see new hues spreading across your arms, a response to an invisible clarion call? What does the reckless abandon of letting everything that appears to protect and cover you fall away feel like? Do they fully realize that this explosion of color is the last gasp of life from leaves whose journey will carry them to the mulchy ground, and a crunchy, brown grave?

There was a period when the way my husband and I handled expenses was driving a wedge in our relationship. The more I gritted my teeth and insisted he keep better records and submit receipts, the chillier our financial exchanges became. I had known years ago that money was not the driving force of how he operated, and that seemed very quaint and endearing at the time. Now it was maddening.

Then I began to see things, well differently. It was subtle at first, rather like the first amber tips of the sycamores that cover my head in September. I thought, "Well I could keep those records. I could pay the bills."

It meant that part of me had to die. My rightness, and need to cling to "the principle of the thing" had to take on new colors, like the deep red of acceptance, and the orange of mutual trust. We might even lose money in the process, if the transition was choppy. Little deaths, of having things my way, or controlling my husband fell to my feet and became the compost for compassion, and patience.

But what of the spring? I am old enough to know that all that stands between these piles of decaying leaves and miniature green shoots that appear from nowhere is about a hundred sunrises. Three full moons, give or take a little. Could the distance between the complaining me and the peaceful one be so short? But what I really want to know and am afraid to ask is, Can I get to the new life without actually having to die?

"He that finds his life will lose it, and he that loses his life for my sake will find it." – Matthew 10:39

I guess not.

But why would I cling to something lifeless anyway? Criticism and resentment are as dead as the fallen leaves. Would I really like to somehow fasten them back to my fingers and use them to beautify myself? Waiting for tiny signs of kindness in the spring seems like an improvement on the old me. Recently my husband made a mistake, and I didn't feel an irresistible urge to point it out to him. It's subtle. But I think I will let the leaves lie where they fall.