The Season of Turning Leaves

Pearl modeled her new look today. My mom just made these cozy matching ponchos for her and V. Notice the butchered bangs. Sorry, kid!

Meanwhile, Aviva wrote letters on her new (old) typewriter. “Dear Baba and Papa. I love Kit Kittredge so much. I love you. Aviva.” Last night, our sixteen-year-old babysitter from down the street lit up when she saw the old Smith-Corona on the kitchen table. Then it occurred to me. “Have you ever used one of these?” I asked her. She shook her head shyly.

The “i” sticks, and the ink’s a little smudgy, but man, the sound of those keys smacking against the paper, and the fact that I actually have to pause briefly between letters, makes me want to write. Apparently, it makes her want to write, too. Today, she started making a book called, “The Littel Girl.” She comes by it honestly, anyway.

I went for a little run this afternoon. It was definitely a big “should” that was hanging over me all morning, as in, “I really should go for a run.” I even almost turned back at the top of our block – it wouldn’t be the first time. But I kept going, allowing myself to be slow and to keep moving in a forward, though ultimately, circular direction. Towards the end, I found myself thinking about Rosh Hashanah, which begins tomorrow at sundown. I suddenly found myself on the familiar brink of existential crisis, which for me meant that in an instant I was questioning who I am, what my life is, what I’m doing, whether I’m just “missing” it. I found myself going deep into it – thinking about the difference between being and consciously being, doing and consciously doing. I so often have this sensation – it is usually kind of unsettling – that I am not here.

This evening, we went to a baby naming ceremony at the home of some close friends here in Burlington. They were formally welcoming their baby girl into their family, the community, and the Jewish people. It was a very similar ceremony to the ones we made for Aviva and Pearlie when they were newborns. It was moving to watch Aviva’s face as she took in the poems and prayers, the blessings offered from so many different people in this new child’s life. Pearl sat in my lap most of the time, except when she was drinking something orange and fizzy that made her dress sticky.

Later, while we were sitting and eating Costco dumplings and local bagels and cream cheese and fruit salad and cookies, I sat and caught up with one of my closest friends. She told me about the fundamental clash between her and her mother, who happens to be visiting for the holiday this week. “She never remembers the plan,” my friend complained. And she went on to share a story from when she was recently in New York City on the subway. She said it was the first time she had ever gotten clausterphobic on the train. “It was because we were underground, and I couldn’t see the map of where we were,” she told me. I immediately understood what she meant. I got it on a practical level, but even more so on a metaphorical one.

I have always needed to be able to see where I am in time, in space. I need to see things in their wholeness, in a context. And when I am simply going through, getting through, my days and nights – I often think of that phrases “Full Catastrophe Living” or “Total Immersion Parenting” (what other kind is there, after all?) – I can start to get weird. I can go from feeling simply immersed and engaged in my life, happy really, to untethered. Suddenly, I am clausterphobic. My chest is getting tight and I am surrounded by people and I can’t see the map and we’re rocketing down the tracks underground and honestly, I can start to panic.

I look up and around at the trees, the leaves suddenly brilliant, signaling my upcoming wedding anniversary and Aviva’s birthday – both on October 10. I wipe the sweat from my face with my shirt and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Finally, I arrive at our street and turn left, walking down the little hill to our house. I see that the front door is open; I know Pearl has woken from her nap, that Aviva is playing with a friend, that Greg is probably making a snack or cleaning up from a snack or reading “Grover Takes Care of Baby” to Pearl for the fiftieth time today.

Instead of rushing inside, I don’t. I stop and tuck in “Sleepy Sadie,” a lawn ornament I got years ago with my mom at a crafts fair, back into the soil where she has fallen over. I bend in half and touch the ground with my palms. I look up at the sky and consider the open space, the mapless places, the ungrounded, the open-ended. It is such a contrast to the trees we live among here, that envelope us, like thoughts.

I always get all reflective this time of year. It’s that time. It’s that season. The season of kavanah – turning, turning inward, setting intentions, thinking back and looking forward. For me, it’s also a season of union and of birth, of my world being rocked, of the map getting covered over, obscured by candy-colored leaves, whose falling is a reassurance of the roundness, the fullness, of these cycles.

Shana tova, my friends. Thank you for being part of my own turnings this past year. You know who you are, every one of you. And if you don’t live in these parts and wish you could play in the leaves, too, leave a comment or email me, and I’ll send you some, the old-fashioned way.

8 thoughts on “The Season of Turning Leaves

  1. Rowena says:

    I don’t know if this is the same thing, quite, but I’ve recently come to a circular place in my life, too, where I realize that nothing in my life has gone. Everything comes around. Everything in the past has something to contribute to my present.

    I couldn’t see it when I was close to it, but now, after the hiatus of pregnancy and birth and infancy, I am collecting the fruits from all the seeds planted 5, 10, 15, even 20 years ago.

    It seems there is a map, all along, and I was just taking the scenic route, although I didn’t know it at the time.


  2. Shelli says:

    I love the metaphor of the underground train with no map. I know that feeling. Though, I’m also content to coast along too. I just keep hoping I’ll end up where I want to go.


  3. Jennifer/The Word Cellar says:

    I often have that feeling that I’m not here. It *is* unsettling, especially to someone who needs connection to the people and places around her to feel whole. I haven’t figured out this sensation, but it’s comforting to know that I’m not alone in it.


  4. mb says:

    oh the leaves up there (or down? there from me I guess) where you are. nothing in the world like them, fruity colored pebbled goodness. I still have little cards i made from the leaves i pressed when i lived in saranac lake. what a magical moment to preserve.

    when i lived in cali my mama would send me boxes of leaves gathered in her backyard (upon my request). i missed the turn of seasons so much and am so grateful to be back in them (even though it has been insanely warm and sunny all week long!)

    miss you


  5. Meg Casey says:

    Shana tova dear Jena–blessings to you this new year. May your fast be easy today.
    I am so familiar with the need for the map, the need to know where–jumping into the rush and just trusting, that is the hard part.
    Btw, my anniversary was also Oct10…may your day be happy and bright!



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