Everything goes away.
I’m never ready for this. It comes unwanted, sometimes expected, sometimes unexpected. I have embraced the beauty of autumn leaves: that which goes is beautiful in its going. But I have not embraced the beauty of their absence.
This has been a long year, a mad scramble to reconstitute my life in different spaces with different people, at home, at work, in my personal life, and now school, again, at long last. My personal upheaval was in large part a secondary effect of everyone else’s. Roommates getting jobs in New Hampshire, supervising attorneys leaving the firm and being replaced by unfamiliar people, close friends and family moving for school or for work or just because it was time. Each one feels like another pillar of my small, but happy life plucked away.
But I have survived, and so have those relationships. The going away is not always a death: or if it is, it’s merely the death of how things were, which opens up new possibilities. I now have an excuse to spend all of my vacation days in the Pacific Northwest (sisters, can we please plan a backpacking trip?), I’m getting to know Baltimore, I was “forced” to travel to Dublin where I met some lovely new people. I’m still in touch with the roommate, who keeps me apprised of all of her goings on, even though I forget her birthday every year. I’ve endured the separation of distance before, and yes, it may weaken some connections. But not always.
And into the vacuum created by all that has been removed, I discover something like perspective. Beneath the elegant draperies of autumn, the verdant glories of spring and summer, I hid the branches that, bound together, make up the bare facts of myself. To be fair to the flowers and leaves: we are social beings and those are no less a part of us, but they are the part that exists in dynamism. Beneath them, there is slower growing wood, which does not flaunt its transformation but shifts slowly, in secret, unrecognized until the abrupt removal of its cover reveals all that has taken place in the intervening seasons.
The birds will return in their time - indeed, not all have flown away, or if they have, they’ve been replaced by winter migrants: dark-eyed juncos, standing out against the snow. For now, I will look to the inner parts with the gardener’s eye for the shaping, the shifting, the pruning. I will love this tree that is my own, and tell it all about spring, but also tell it not to waste the winter, to let the cold sweeten its sap as it sends its roots down deep into the earth, and there perhaps find that there is still warmth in this world of white.