Autumn Leaves

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Autumn is one of the most beautiful times of the year, but, given our mild weather, it is not a season we Californians fully celebrate.  We seem to slide from summer to Indian Summer and then suddenly, it’s overcast and rainy.  Well, sometimes rainy.  We’ve been in a severe drought the past few years and are beginning to forget what rain is.

A long time past, I lived in Pennsylvania for almost a year.  They definitely embrace autumn.  I have a vivid memory of stepping outside to retrieve the mail, an apple in hand.  I could smell the dampness of an early rain as I walked into the crisp fall air, surrounded by flurries of falling orange, red and yellow leaves. Walking down the long drive to the mailbox, I bit into the crisp, cold, so very sweet apple and in that moment knew that it was the taste of autumn.

Last spring, I moved to the Sierra foothills, an area that does believe in autumn despite the drought.  With the lack of water, the leaves are struggling to change colors although, as you can see, there are still some very vibrant red, yellow and orange leaves decorating the landscape. While I haven’t found an apple quite as crisp as the Pennsylvania one, the memory remains and surfaces now and again as I walk amid the color and dried leaves swirling to the ground.

For me, autumn brings the end of another cycle and another year.  It’s a time of quiet reflection and review. Am I on the path I supposed to be walking or simply wandering in the woods enjoying the view?

This is the first time in my life where there has been little drive or passion. No to-do list; no have-to list. A blank piece of paper.  I always assumed there was a reason for one’s existence, une rasion d’être, but now, at this stage, that too seems to have gone missing.

There’s an admitted calm and bit of disconnect from the more grueling aspects of life.  Perhaps it’s a function of age; perhaps a function of location.  Nonetheless, the mind wanders and wonders although, for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you what about.

A few weeks ago, I went in search of an artificial Christmas tree, as my last one looked a bit too sad last year.  I stood next to another woman, about my age, as we evaluated the artificial forest before us.

She asked what I was thinking.

I was honest.  I’m looking at the prices, wondering how many more Christmases I’ll have, and whether the investment will be worth it.

She smiled and said she was thinking something similar.  I remember my mother teasing about getting too old to buy green bananas. Maybe she wasn’t teasing as much as I thought.

My friend Bill puts things in a slightly different way. He says to get a long measuring tape, measure out one inch for each year you’ve lived and then add another inch for each year you hope to live.  It’s certainly a sobering exercise.

Autumn is indeed a gentle time, and at the same time, there is a chill in the air bringing the promise that the next season is on the cusp of arriving. Sometimes, not often, I wonder what it will bring.

In the meantime, lacking a really crisp, cold, so very sweet apple, I think I’ll put an apple in the oven to bake while I watch the leaves just a little longer.

Serendipity

I marvel at Serendipity.

I love the sound of Serendipity rolling off the tongue and, in that instant, there is a whole world of possibilities.

If Serendipity could be held in my hand, I imagine it would be an old-fashion kaleidoscope. Spin the cylinder and, as if by magic, all the tiny unimportant, unconnected pieces of glass, beads and pebbles come together to create an image that holds all the possibilities of a moment that may never be seen again. 

The challenge may be in noticing and embracing those serendipitous moments in our lives, especially when a particular pattern appears, quietly slips away and then unexpectedly reappears later down the road.

My moment of Serendipity has been in the making over many years.  It began when I was still working. A colleague, also a friend, and I met monthly over the course of a few years to keep each other up to date on campus safety issues.

At the end of almost every conversation, he’d pause and reflect,

You know, when I retire, my wife and I are moving to a small lake community in the Sierra Foothills. It is so beautiful and peaceful. We absolutely love it.

With that, Serendipity planted its seed and waited to be nurtured.

One long decade later,  just a little over a year ago, in one of those moments you just know is surrounded by Serendipity, I met a man from a small town in the Sierra Foothills.

I told him about my colleague who had moved up to a lake community in the area. He told me it was beautiful.

I’ve lived at that lake for over twenty years!  He’s right. It is incredibly beautiful. Who’s your friend?

Turns out they’ve been golf partners for years.

Serendipity.

It led to a Road Trip. 

And a second Road Trip. 

And, yes, the lake and the community are as beautiful as I had imagined. So is the entire area. It’s no wonder I was mesmerized.

A few months later, with the help of two friends — one old, one new — the perfect home found me and, within a matter of weeks, I was packed and moved.

I now look in any direction and am surrounded by vistas that are, at the same moment, both breathtaking and serene.  They’ve become a sanctuary, holding and nourishing my soul while re-igniting a passion for writing.

It is in this moment of pure Serendipity that my spirit sings again.

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