“Welcome to heaven” the trees seem to whisper as she plods along, oxfords crunching the cornflaked earth and wind rustling her heavy curls.
As nears the bench and looks out over the wide and wandering trees and meadows, her heart dies and goes to heaven, for she knows she is alone and this whole place is hers for the time. Interrupted only by the chatter of a simple sparrow or the crackle of leaves beneath her, she sits and breathes in the damp smell of earth.
Can you tell the wind to quiet or the trees to stop singing their song of mad joy? No. This place. Minnesota in autumn, where autumn is not yet dying nor hunching its shoulders waiting for the formidable fingers of winter to hold it tightly for what seems like forever.
A she sits, she bites down heavily into the crisp, red flesh of an apple; the sugared variety she picked from the arms of an orchard tree. A perfect medley of sweet delight and crisp twang fills her mouth. Life has been simple. Simple foods, simple home, simple routine; simple. Sometimes, especially after she listens to a very well meaning voice spilling its glorious life story upon her lap, as if expecting her to have an ever-present towel to wipe it with, she wonders. She wonders if she will stay like this forever. Somewhere, high above, she knows God sees, and yes, this gives her comfort if nothing else does. But sometimes here in this land where everyone is running headlong into the next thing, she wonders where her place is.
Carefully, she sifts through pages of ideas, and notes and websites. They all seem to ask the same question – will you find yourself here? She doesn’t know. Do you ever wonder if your place will become like the quiet place of a leaf? It falls, just like the rest, and is swept with the wind, just like all the rest. It’s golden red colors blend in with the rest of the landscape and you forget that it was there, for there are hundreds around it; stifling it.
She remembers back to the day when life being simple was the very best thing. When shoes were not required, dinner came easily and on time, toads presented themselves for hunting every spring, and the fanciest you had to get was wearing that old jean jumper, fitted over an ironed white blouse. Life was simple. And she loved it that way.
Now it seems, at least to her, simple means the melancholy mediocrity of same-ness and boredom. If you aren’t catching fireflies at night, chasing stars the next, or running after fireworks the next, are you even living? Fireworks and fireflies and stars present themselves as new boyfriends, new vocations, new tattoos, and new zucchini spiralizers. And as with new boyfriends, new vocations, new tattoos, and new spiralizers, they are fun and glamorous and cute in the beginning until the new wears off and you have – the same old husband, the same old job, the sagging skin where a tattoo hangs, and the broken spiralizer that sits in the bottom of the cupboard, collecting dust.
She thinks of mama; raising the same old kids, brushing the same old gnarled hair, teaching the same old lessons, planting the same old tomatoes and cleaning the same old pan for the 14587th time. Mama. She makes same-ness beautiful, and makes everything as it ought to be.
Can we hold in our hands the same old hot embers and keep them from growing old and cold? Are we able to sit and watch the world go in a whir around us without thinking it our duty to join in? Can we plant the same grass as last year with just as much care? And with just as much awe, can we watch it rise again every year, like it was the first time, all over again?
She fingers the golden leaf, picks it up and brings it home. She will press it and keep it for many seasons. Especially for the seasons when she would forget. It will sit with the dried flowers she hangs on her wall, and with the old scraps of letters and notes she will keep until they burn with age.
Life is simple. Thank God for simple.