Autumn Trilogy III – A Season of Unleaving

Colleen was our hand-waver, the slightly obnoxious one who bounced in her seat, caught up in the throes of enthusiasm. “Me! Me, Miss Hudepohl. Call on me!”

On the other side of the room, shy Valerie dedicated herself to perfecting the role of a disappearing third-grader. Content to remain in the back row, she spent her days sinking lower and lower into her one-armed, wooden desk until she resembled a puddle of Silly Putty, ready to flow away beneath the door, down the hall, and out of our lives forever.

Neither a shrinker nor a hand-waver, I asked for and received a place in the front row of desks. Since our teacher spent most of her time distracted by hand-wavers or trying to draw out the shrinkers, I rarely was called on. When it was my turn, I’d squirm a bit, pretending not to have heard. Sometimes, I’d shake my head and shrug my shoulders in a gesture of casual detachment, as if to say, “No, I don’t have the answer, but you already knew that, so why bother?”

Asked to choose a proper spelling while still at my desk, to add or subtract numbers, or to pick out the verb from a sentence, I froze. Invited to the blackboard, I worked arithmetic problems or wrote out vocabulary words without difficulty. My performance was so erratic, Mrs. Hudepohl began calling on me more often: sometimes telling me to stay in my seat, sometimes asking me to go to the board.

The day she asked me to stay after school, I was terrified. I knew which kids were held after school, and I knew how my parents would react if they found I’d been included in that group.  To my great relief, I hadn’t done anything wrong. My teacher only wanted a bit of privacy to ask me a question: “When there’s a problem on the board, and I ask you to give me the answer from your seat, you seem to be guessing. But when you go to the blackboard, you always get it right. Do you know why that is?”

Of course I knew, and she coaxed me into telling my secret. If I held a book a few inches from my nose, I could read it perfectly well. From my desk, the blackboard and its contents were nothing but a blur.  Once I’d admitted the truth, she reached for a pen. “Here,” she said. “Take this note home to your parents. Don’t lose it.”

What my teacher had discovered, and what my parents knew once I handed over the note, was that I wasn’t a slow, reluctant learner. I was near-sighted, and I needed glasses.

Unbeknownst  to anyone — unbeknownst even to me — I had been living in a world of soft focus and blurred edges. As autumn leaves piled up along the fences and swirled through frost-tinged streets, their details melded into patches of solid color. Every cloud was cottony, every riverbank a smooth, simple ribbon of yellow or red. I had assumed it was that way for everyone. Soon, I would learn otherwise.

My first glasses were an abomination: thick as old-fashioned Coke bottle bottoms and graced with pink plaid frames. I thought they were ugly even then, and can’t imagine that I chose them for myself. But it was the 1950s, and I suppose options were limited.

In any event, they drew a good bit of notice, and more than a few taunts from my classmates. “Four-eyes” was a favorite, along with the less traditional but more creative “fish face,” an insult presumably meant to suggest I resembled a goldfish, staring out at the world from my bowl.

On the other hand, not even the worst teasing could overcome my delight in the changes wrought by a simple pair of glasses. The out-of-focus world I’d grown accustomed to gave way to sharp, vibrant images. I could read the blackboard with ease. Alphabet letters marched around the top of the blackboard with cursive clarity. I no longer strained to see a clock, or squinted to see which classmates were on the playground.  Astonishment abounded, particularly when it came to trees.

I’d always loved trees, especially the red and gold residue of autumn that drifted around our yard. I collected every sort of leaf: hickory and oak, maple to press between sheets of waxed paper, elm branches to tuck into bouquets with tall, purple grasses. When easy-going parents raked the fallen bounty into piles, we jumped and tumbled until one last raking gave way to burning. Then, we inhaled the incense of the season like devotees of some great, autumnal god.

Not long after my glasses arrived, I found myelf admiring the season’s shimmering color through new eyes.  “Look!” I said. “There are leaves on the trees!”

Of course I knew that leaves grow on trees, but never had I experienced so directly the relationship between the stubborn, golden leaves still clinging to their branches, and those already fallen to the ground.  Taking in those “near leaves” and “far leaves” in a single glance, I felt a strange combination of nostalgia and grief, almost a wave of sympathy for the increasingly bare-branched tree, condemned by seasonal turning to endure the falling of its leaves.

Decades later, I wondered. Was that experience a first glimpse of life’s transitory nature, an experience like that distilled into words by poet Gerard Manley Hopkins in his sensitive, “Spring and Fall: To a Young Child”?

 Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

When wholly natural, seasonal sorrow partners with fresh and giddy exultation, when bare-branched trees rejoin their scattered leaves in the ease of a single glance, life changes.

Leaves may fall and winter come, but in memory and imagination spring’s faint, green fringe laces across the sky, spreading into summer’s canopy before tumbling again into autumn’s receptive arms. I would, I thought, see it all: both the turning of the seasons and the tranformations of the grove.

Such was the promise of childhood: a promise essentially fulfilled. And yet, after years of beauty and clarity, after decades of wandering the groves from gold to green to gold again, there comes a hint of a different autumn.  

Beneath my feet, uneasy leaves crackle and sigh, their veins still sharp, their edges crisp and well defined. Yet in the distance, I see the trees that bore my leafy carpet blurring, fading, dissolving into darkness before the turning of my own advancing years.

A slow, unhappy diminution of sight has begun to take its toll, an unnatural unleaving of the golden groves that leads to inevitable questions. Will I become again a diminished child, trapped in a world of blurred realities, struggling to make out messages scrawled across the chalkboard of my life? Or will there be another correction, a reprieve, a renewed opportunity to grasp both leaf and tree with the ease of a single glance?

Answers will come, in time. For now, the fall of every leaf serves as a memento mori, a reminder that, however sharp and clear our vision of the world’s beauty, fading is inevitable.

Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.

Just as my own childhood became a time for re-leafing, for knitting together pieces and bits of a world  pulled apart by natural infirmity, old age will bring its own experience of infirmity and change.  As the golden decades shimmer against the edge of coming night, once again the leaves will fall, and vision fade. “It ever was, and is, and shall be,” says Heraclitus, “ever-living fire, in measures being kindled and in measures going out.”

Always, it is the  “going out” that distresses. But to see the world whole and to see its parts, to stitch together and to tear asunder, is to learn the bitter, bracing truth: the great tree of life sheds each of us as naturally as the maple sheds its leaves.  It is, as they say, the way of the world. 

If we intend to live in this world, should we desire to partake of this world, there is no choice.  “Cling to your branch,” comes the whisper of autumn. “Cling with tenacity, and fall in your season with grace, secure in the knowledge that the grove itself will endure, golden in the falling light.

Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

 

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100 thoughts on “Autumn Trilogy III – A Season of Unleaving

  1. What you’ve written here is exquisite, and in so many respects: a mediation on childhood, on aging, and about a perceptive teacher who saw past what many could not have seen. I don’t remember who it was who told me about her experience of getting her first pair of glasses, but the transformation of her life from that simple act–I think also as the result of an attentive teacher–has stayed with me ever since. At the aging end of the spectrum, a friend has macular degeneration and seeks every bit of last light she can.

    1. Susan, in those days of homeroom mothers, twice-daily recess, class trips and quarterly parent-teacher conferences (held at night, so the fathers could come!), our teachers had wonderful opportunities to get to know us. Those relationships were so important, in so many ways. I wish more of today’s school children could have such experiences.

      Every time I walk into my bank and see the Lion’s Club box for used eyeglasses, reading glasses and sunglasses, I think of that teacher. I like to imagine that the “outgrown” reading glasses I’ve dropped into the box provided someone else with the same kind of experience.

      I still remember when a friend’s mother had to give up driving because of macular degeneration. It came to her earlier than for many, and it was traumatic. With that single life change, her sense of independence of freedom were radically curtailed.

      Linda

  2. Linda, a touching part three of your autumn trilogy. This season contains such an array of metaphors — the blazing glory of mature leaves, and the inevitable falling and decay. Yes, we are part of Nature, too, and the losses associated with aging are part of that cycle. You write so poignantly about your visual cycles. Hope the diminishment of your eyesight is slow and gradual and bearable.

    1. I’m one of the lucky ones, Rosemary. I’m dealing only with cataracts and glaucoma, and eye drops have kept the glaucoma in check. What’s interesting is that I have what’s called low-pressure glaucoma. where there isn’t a rise in optic nerve pressure. The one time I tried to please my mother by seeing an eye doctor in my area rather than driving into Houston to see the doctor I’d had for years, they missed the glaucoma and told me I needed cataract surgery. Uh – not so much.

      I was uneasy with the way my appointment had gone, and went into Houston, anyway. It’s a good thing I did. They caught the glaucoma before there had been much damage, and it’s been held in check for five years now. The only real side effect is that I nag family and friends to death to schedule a yearly eye exam with someone reputable.

      Linda

  3. Oh, the dilemma. Modern science and medicine have rapidly increased our average length of life, but we live those lengthened lives in bodies that evolved to die sooner. Many more of us now live long enough to come down with the cancer or dementia or fading of sight that we would have escaped by dying younger.

    Your interweaving of the Hopkins poem reminds me of another, the one in which Dylan Thomas urges: “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

    1. Steve, you’ve reminded me of my mother’s grim humor through her latter years. I believe it was on her 66th birthday that she announced, “Well, I’ve lived longer now than anyone else in the family. I ought to be done for, pretty soon.” Every milestone birthday — 75, 80, 85, 90 — we’d tease her about it. She lived to 93, and her remaining sister is 87. I have my fingers crossed that I’m swimming in their part of the gene pool.

      Still, your point’s well-taken.My vet once told me that the life-span of an outdoor cat is about four years, while indoor kitties often live fifteen years or more. Reduce the hazards, and survival becomes less problematic, even though other issues can present themselves.

      The Dylan Thomas poem happened to be one my mother quoted from time to time, even though she once said she thought he was wrong about rage being an appropriate response to the fading of the light. Of course, by the time we had that conversation, she was at least a couple of decades beyond that 66th birthday, and often seemed quite ready for life’s end.

      Linda

  4. I believe a good teacher usually spots the need for corrective lenses. I was twelve, and experienced the same amazement in being able to see properly, however I have gone most of my life without them. Now however, with macular degeneration I need different glasses for computer use as well as just being able to see.

    This is such a clear description of your childhood classroom I felt I was sitting there somewhere.

    The Margaret poem is delightful. Is it your own?
    Remember Dylan Thomas’ s advice “Do not go lightly into the dark night. Rage, rage against the failing of the light”.

    1. Kayti, I so dearly loved grade school, I have many, many very clear memories of events in the various grades — not to mention little details like the mixing bowl set given to my kindergarten teacher as a class gift for her bridal shower, and the red, yellow and blue reading circle chairs in first grade. Some day I need to sit down and list what I do remember, before memory begins to fade.

      The poem was written by Gerard Manley Hopkins. You can read a little about him here. He was quite interesting as a person, although I’m not so fond of his poetry generally. The one I quoted here is called “Spring and Fall: To a Young Child.”

      I was quite surprised to see that Natalie Merchant included the poem on a new album. You can see her performing it in concert here.

      I think it’s really quite effective. I wonder what Hopkins would have thought to see one one of his poems, never published during his lifetime, performed on stage in this manner?

      Linda

      1. I liked your suggestion about black cherry juice! Dr.Advice’s pills don’t seem to be working got him, so I got the juice today. We’ll see.I’m sorry you are experiencing the beginnings of arthritis. It’s not fun is it?

        1. No, it’s not fun. On the other hand, after working with my hands for 24 years, it’s not surprising. Just as an aside, when I began the regimen, I drank a cup morning and night for about three days. That was enough to get me on the road to improvement, and I cut back to the recommended one-half cup morning and night. Now, I seem to be maintaining with about a half-cup each day.

          As the articles I’ve read seem to agree, it’s no cure, but it does relieve symptoms. It’s used for gout, too, and apparently is quite effective for many people who suffer with that condition.

          I hope it helps Dr. Advice. The good news is, it won’t do any harm. I would think it even could be combined with sparkling water if he had a mind to.

            1. That, I can’t speak to. I don’t have any idea how the alcohol would interact with whatever the active ingredient in the cherry juice is. It would be a shame to kill the painkiller.

  5. “Will I become again a diminished child, trapped in a world of blurred realities, struggling to make out messages scrawled across the chalkboard of my life?”

    This poignant line brought me to tears. This week I’ve been struggling to reassure my elderly mother as she feels “trapped in a world of blurred realities”. Her eyesight still is sharp, but her thoughts have become so blurred that she’s uncertain and frightened. Your words have given me another way to understand her distress.

    1. I was thinking about the differences in our situations, NumberWise, and it occurred to me that you’re having a much harder time because of physical distance.

      My mother had those spells, too, but it seemed as though simply having me around was palliative — especially if I could keep myself from trying to reason (or argue!) her out of particularly outlandish convictions. Eventually, I figured out that the best response to a statement like, “I’ve got to get this house cleaned up, because my dad and sisters are coming to visit” wasn’t to say, “But Mom — they’ve been dead for fifty years.” It was far more helpful to say something like, “Oh, let me help you.” Eventually, she’d forget about the upcoming visit, but at least there would be some housecleaning done.

      Of course, you can’t do that, and that makes it harder on you. Sometimes there aren’t many answers, let alone good ones. But I think some of the things you’ve mentioned, especially that bridge care, are going to help a lot.

      Linda

    1. Ken, you’re always introducing me to singer/songwriters I’ve not heard of. Thanks for this one.

      I’d not thought about it before, but your comment about gathering imagery into memory is just one more argument for more engagement with the world, and less thoughtless media consumption. I surely would hate for the last, clearest images in my memory to be from some bit of reality television.

      I’m not sure abut sight inhibiting memory. I don’t think that’s true, but I can’t tell you why. I’ll have to ponder it a little more. It’s surely true that every sense is capable of bringing memories to consciousness: taste, smell, sound, and touch as well as sight. If I had to choose just one sense to give up — I’d rather not lose any!

      Linda

  6. Earlier this evening I watched this Ted Talk.
    The speaker is an EMT who has been with many who face death. When asked ‘Am I going to die?’, he would lie to bolster them. But, he changed his response to tell them the truth. It was an important decision for him.

    Like the leaves of autumn, we all are facing the prospect of falling from the tree of life. When it happens is not known for most of us. What matters is to do all we can to fulfill our dreams, leave some lasting mark, and improve the lives of our fellow human beings. Let’s hope we each get help from others in our lives so we can see with greater clarity and wisdom.

    1. I chose to read the transcript rather than watch the video, and it was quite interesting. My experiences with the dying have been different in some respects than the EMT’s, but of course his role as a first (and sometimes last) responder shaped his experience.

      It did remind me of one of my favorite silly questions. Every now and then, I hear someone ask, “What would you do differently, if you knew you were going to die next week, (or in six months — whatever). I’ve always thought the best approach would be to live in such a way that I wouldn’t feel the need to make any significant changes — apart from some phone calls and visits, perhaps. I try to do that, and of course I don’t manage it as well as I’d like. But you’re right. It’s a worthy goal.

      Linda

  7. When my Dad was in his later years, he would sometimes mention that his sight was not what it used to be, but my observation was that even then he saw so much more of what was really there that he was still far ahead of most of us.

    1. It’s a fact that some people see more of what’s around them, Terry, and your Dad may have been one with that gift. Of course, if close observation comes as a gift in the beginning, it’s also a habit that can be cultivated. I suspect your Dad cultivated his gift — and passed the habit on to you.

      I’ve also noticed that people who spend more time observing what is, and less time making pronouncements about what should be, tend to be more insightful. I suspect your Dad was pretty insightful, too.

      Linda

  8. Linda, your post is full of graciousness and a lovely study of the autumn of our lives. I find it extraordinary that we have both posted on the subject of ageing at more or less the same time. You are viewing it in the context of autumn and All Hallow’s Eve whereas I am thinking of ageing in the context of spring and growth and renewal. Either way I feel we are both accepting of the ageing process.

    1. It is rather amazing that we came at this in such different and yet related ways, Gallivanta. That we both should feel a certain acceptance of the process doesn’t surprise me at all.

      Both of us have lived long enough to have experienced many instances of having to cope with circumstances beyond our ability to change. The most immediately obvious are your earthquake and my hurricanes. I suspect that learning to cope with such events helps when it’s time to face aging and death.

      I also think that an acceptance of the aging process and the inevitable end of life helps us to live with less fear. Ebola comes to mind, of course. I was happy to see the nurse in Cairns has tested negative, but Dallas hasn’t been so lucky. We need some straightforward, honest talk about Ebola from our own officials, like this, from Scientific American. Honestly, I think the public is capable of understanding far more than we’re given credit for, and far more capable of responding appropriately.

      As a matter of fact, the same probably goes for the elderly.

      Linda

      ADD: I just noticed our variant spellings of “ag(e)ing”, and looked them up. Both are correct, of course.

      1. An excellent article Linda. Thank you for the link. Machines, computers, technology often take away from basic common sense practices. Speaking of which, you may be amused by this tale. At Christchurch airport on my way to Cairns, I had a small accident. I went to the information desk at the airport and asked to be directed to a first aid post. Behold, there wasn’t one! Some ten minutes later, in a very round about way, someone got someone to fetch the medics from the airport fire brigade room. The firemen wanted me to sit down so they could check the small wound on the top of my head. Behold! There are chairs in our brand new airport but they are folded up and locked against the wall . Why? And Behold, no one knew where to find the key to unlock the chairs. Eventually one of the airline staff brought me a wheelchair. And from then on all was well. But the whole affair which was really rather minor did make me wonder how the airport would manage a major incident!!!!! The firemen were utterly charming. ;) They said they have asked repeatedly for the chairs to be unlocked but to no avail.

        1. Gallivanta, I started laughing somewhere about the sixth sentence, and never stopped. First, I’m glad you’re fine. It wasn’t your stumble that made me laugh, but the absolute ubiquity of bureaucratic bumbling. I’m sure Pascal wouldn’t mind if we pointed out that bureaucracies have their reasons, of which normal human beings know nothing.

          I do remember the night I discovered some residents working the ER at the best trauma hospital in Houston regularly let themselves and their patients into empty but locked examining rooms by using their credit cards to slip the locks. Human creativity will not be denied, it seems.

          1. Now there’s something I hadn’t thought of…perhaps a credit card would have unlocked those airport chairs! And, yes, I am perfectly fine, and was even fine enough at the time to have a good laugh at the absurdity of the situation.

  9. Your timing once again is impeccable Linda, as this week I face yet another birthday…… winter is closer than maybe autumn….
    Last night I watched the movie “Cloudburst”, which in part deals with the issues you’ve raised. Of course, there’s always the comfort of wisdom gained over the years, to help one deal with the challenges of ageing. You I reckon, have that in abundance!

    1. Personally, I love birthdays. I think of them as proof that I’ve made it through one more year. Sometimes I’m a little sadder, and sometimes a little happier, but I’ve always been at least a little wiser.

      I’d never heard of “Cloudburst.” I suppose it was crass of me, but I had to laugh when I read this on the Wiki page: “Fitzgerald had originally planned for the role of Dotty to be played by Joan Orenstein, but she died while he was writing [the screenplay].” Ah, well.

      It tickled me to see you spelling it “ageing.” I just had looked it up after seeing the same spelling in Gallivanta’s comment. As it turns out, it’s that old British/American difference popping up again. Your “ageing” is correct, but so is my “aging.”

      Now I’m wondering if some of our spellings were changed post-Revolutionary War years, as a way of emphasizing we weren’t part of “them” any more. I tend to think of language changes as slow and imperceptible rather than as intentional. I’ll have to dig around a bit and see what the experts say. It’s another good winter project to add to my stack.

      Linda

  10. A richly evocative piece of writing, Linda. The seasons are always an analogy of life. Even winter with its stark contrast is naturally easier to read visually as our visual acuity deteriorates.

    Both my wife and I rely on glasses for reading, computer work, map reading etc. Between us we have four pairs of glasses – and every given moment at least one pair is lost. The problem is that without glasses it is harder to find the glasses that are lost as they merge into the house’s furnishings. I become increasingly grateful for the dioptre adjustment on the viewfinder that enables me to see sharply.

    1. Andy, I just came from reading a comment by another fellow who constantly is searching for one of his multiple pairs of glasses. I purchased a new pair this week that I swear I’m going to use only at the computer. I even marked them with nail polish so there’s no confusing them. We’ll see how the system works.

      It’s interesting that you mention the contrasts of winter. The brightness of snow, the tracery of empty black limbs, isn’t part of our experience, of course. We have to train our eyes to appreciate an abundance of grays and browns, and to find the horizon where gray water meets a gray sky. But when a norther blows through, and takes the humidity and pollution with it? From the top of the neighborhood bridge I can see across the bay, to the tankers and freighters moving in their channel, and even farther, to the wildlife refuge it would take a couple of hours to drive to by road.

      Wouldn’t it be fine if a wind could blow our vision so clear?

      Linda

  11. By coincidence I published a picture of the basket of life in my blog this morning. I was pointed out the vulnerability of life and how we depend on prescribed medicines to cling to the tree of life.

    You have a similar message, only expressed in exquisite wording. Lacking the skills of writings, I used light to paint the same message. “Tempus fugit”.

    I love your writing, Linda. It ushers me into thinking and meditating about the mystery of life. At 67 this message has a deep meaning.

    Bye,

    Omar.-

    1. I just came over to see your basket of life, Omar. We put modern pharmaceuticals in our baskets most of the time, but now and then, the old ways bring relief, too.

      The past month or two, I’ve suddenly had my first bouts of arthritis. Even worse, it afflicted my hands, and was extremely painful. Since they’re critical for my work, I had to do something about it.

      A little research revealed that many people recommend cherry juice as an anti-inflammatory. I tried it, and in three days, the pain was gone. Now, my swollen joints are gone, too. Amazing.

      But here’s what’s even better. I thought I’d play scientist, and stop drinking the juice, just to see what happened. After two days,I could feel some twinges. After four days, the pain was back. I started the juice again, and the pain disappeared.

      Granted, it might not work for everyone, but it does for me. It’s a reminder that folk medicines can be as good as modern pharmaceuticals — and often without the side effects. Choosing what works is the key.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, just as I enjoyed your “basket of goodies.” There are plenty of ways to communicate the same truth.

      Linda

      1. I’m also suffering from arthitis pains on the corner of my left hand. It’s that bad, but the pain is there. If you could give me the brand of the cherry juice, I would give it a try. Maybe it can be found here in Panama. Thanks in advance,

        Omar.-

        1. I don’t think the brand would make much difference, Omar. I buy Knudsen’s. The important thing is to find pure juice, without any added sugar, since sugar is an inflammatory. Many articles talk about tart cherry juice, but I chose the dark, just because I like the flavor better.

          One of my friends who is diabetic can’t have the juice because of its natural sugars, so she bought capsules of cherry extract. I suspect those might be available for you, even if the juice isn’t. I’ve found a half-cup morning and night is enough to keep things under control.

          Here’s an article that takes a fairly reasonable approach to it all. They point out that it’s no cure, but that it does alleviate symptoms for many people. That’s good enough for me.

          1. Thank you for all the information provided. Will take a close look at what’s available in Panama. At this moment I have no pain whatsoever, but out of the blue, it returns and when it does, it really hurts. Ouch!

  12. Oh, goodness. I just got snatched backwards through time and my first pair of glasses. I’ll never forget it.

    I put them on in Mr. Jackson’s little shop in downtown Charleston and looked out his front window to Edwards Five and Dime across King St. I could see everything in their display window. When we got home, there were LEAVES on the trees and BLADES of grass in the lawn!

    Like you, I knew there were leaves and blades of grass but I thought I was seeing the world just like everyone else was. It was quite the delightful shock for everything to snap suddenly into focus.

    It was my second grad teacher, Mrs. Harper, who alerted my mom to the possiblity that I had vision problems, as she did about my hearing. I don’t remember the triggering events; I just remember the results.

    1. Your description makes me think of the shock I always get when I see a good macro photograph of a flower, or a tiny bee — anything, really. I’m constantly looking at them and thinking, “Oh, my goodness. I didn’t know it looked like that!” You put it perfectly. When the whole world snaps into focus, it’s quite an experience.

      I’m always smiling at other similarities in our experience. Your mention of the Five and Dime brought back some fine memories. We had a Kresge’s and eventually a Woolworth’s, but there was an independent, too. The family called it a variety store, but it had the Five and Ten feel. Who knows? I might have bought some Silly Putty there, once upon a time.

      Those teachers were the best. Some were better teachers than others, some were more likeable, but all of them were teachers: not paper pushers, not bureaucrats, not union organizers, not babysitters. It was a good time to grow up.

      Linda

  13. What a thoughtful, eloquent piece of writing this is, Linda! My sister was the one who had to wear glasses early on, and I know kids were “cruel” to anyone who was “different.” I imagine that, since not all kids were “treated” to a visit to an eye doctor, those who were, those whose vision needed correction, were considered odd. Sad, huh?

    You write so emotionally about the change that came over you when you finally were able to see clearly. Almost like peeling back the layers of those wax paper tracings and finding the leaf beneath!

    Of course, it was a different time back then. Teachers were much more able to “diagnose” a child’s problem and suggest a solution. They also were able to comfort a crying little one, call parents to try to persuade them to let a kid join band, or whatever. I’m not an educator, but I wonder how many teachers today would feel comfortable sticking their necks out?!

    1. Actually, Debbie, one of my best memories of my mother is associated with the teasing that came along with those new glasses. I don’t remember running home crying, but I do remember being upset one day at being called “Four Eyes.” Mom looked at me and said, “Well, do you have four eyes?” When I said no, she said, “Then your friends are the ones who can’t see, aren’t they?” Pure genius.

      Speaking of genius, your comparison of pulling back the waxed paper to see the leaf is perfect. The symptom that sent me to the eye doctor in the first place was that I wasn’t seeing colors in my left eye as well as I did with my right. I’m not even sure how I discovered it, but once I did, it was noticeable.

      My sense of things is that teachers aren’t just more constrained by rules and regulations today, they’re burdened with responsibilities that have little to do with real teaching. In our town, during my childhood, they were held in terrific respect, and we were expected to respect them. My parents had grown up in school districts where one-room schools were common, and teachers boarded with a family. There weren’t any secrets during their school days, and they expected to know what was going in during mine.

      Linda

  14. Beautiful writing, Linda.

    James Taylor said in his song, “Secret O’ Life”: “Since we’re only here for a while, might as well show some style.” — And you certainly are doing that!

    Keep taking care of your eyes.

    1. Thanks so much for your complimentary words, Andrew, and thanks for reminding me of that James Taylor song. It’s a good one.

      As for the eyes? I’ll keep an eye on them!

      Linda

  15. I’ve wondered the same about all my senses as the years add up, Linda. I’ve had my vision prescription adjusted in jumps. A difference one year, no change the next couple, then a change, then no change. So far, each change has been correctable, but for how long? I now wonder about the processing of my images. I make them sharp to my vision, but wonder if that is the same sharpness others see or do my images seem a little gritty from too much. So far there have been no complaints….but people are usually polite. I hope your changes are all correctable.

    An odd thing….the last several notices I have received for additional comments on your past couple of postings have come from “Human Relationships” rather than “The Task at Hand”.

    1. It was only a few years ago that I learned my decision to stay with hard contact lenses, despite the advantages of other kinds, actually had served me well. Apparently hard lenses help to prevent changes in the shape of the eye — one reason prescriptions change.

      Cataracts aren’t a big deal any more — it’s the glaucoma I have to be worried about. But here’s another “plus” I’ll bet you didn’t know about. One of the drops used to treat glaucoma has the side effect of making eyelashes long and lustrous. In fact, it’s an active ingredient products used for just that purpose. What a world.

      As for your photos, Steve, I never would have thought you were doing any kind of post-processing, other than the cropping, slight sharpening and such that everyone seems to do. I just sit and look at them and try and fight out my envy that you get to live in the midst of all that. Yes, we have a wonderful world here, too — but in the fall, you’ve got some terrific subject matter.

      Linda

      1. Post-processing, just like darkroom work, is essential in attaining an optimal image. Unfortunately, the games played with Photoshop have given processing and adjustments a bit of a negative connotation. I try not to do anything untrue to the reality of what was there, but contrast adjustments, sometimes global and sometimes targeted, can make a huge difference in the appearance.

        If a camera is set to shoot jpegs then there are adjustments being made as well. Only they have been predetermined by the camera manufacturer. In many ways, shooting in RAW mode is more real as it is called the digital negative for a reason. It’s all there and you get to control how it is developed, just like in a wet darkroom. Saint Ansel did an awful lot to his images in the darkroom and he often said that no one who was with him at the time of exposure would recognize the image after he did his darkroom magic.

        I also have a couple of cataracts, but fortunately they have not changed much if at all since first noticed. No sign of glaucoma. As we age our sense of sight and hearing diminish. I’d happily keep either or both and give up smell in return. :-)

        1. Well. I just learned something else. My new camera gives me the ability to shoot in RAW format. It’s not something I need to be doing right now, but it’s good to know it’s there. And surprise, surprise. When I found the settings and changed them, then took a couple of pics, I got a file rather than an image, which can’t be opened without some kind of software program. I’m setting that all aside for the time being. One step at a time.

          It took me a minute to figure out Saint Ansel. Ansel Adams, I presume. Have you ever seen his Los Angeles photos? They really are great — Ansel Adams, street photographer. On the page I linked, look at the third row down, on the right. There’s a double exposure. I laugh every time I look at it.

          1. Yes, you do need special software. But your camera came with a disk that provides the necessary software. The manufacturer’s program is sufficient but generally not as good as the results received from a third party.
            Adams did much more than just the landscapes he is famous for. During the depression he did some work that wasn’t reflective of the difficult times that brought him some criticism but, of course, was still excellent. Street and cityscapes too. And the occasional portrait.

            1. No disk, but I found the download, and downloaded. And I have Photoshop Elements, which I took off my computer, but could easily put back on. But that’s for much farther down the road.

            2. Ah yes, no manual with the camera probably too…download that as well. Elements should help you out….but there may be a problem with the version not being familiar with your camera. I am not sure as I never used Elements, but that is the case with Photoshop full version.

          2. Thanks for the link. It took me a while to have the time to follow it. That is indeed smile worthy. And…it is a familiar vision as my foot occasionally stuck sending me in a similar flight without the benefit of camera trickery. :-)

  16. When I read “Silly Putty” I immediately smelled it.

    I got my first pair of glasses in junior high. Laughs from other kids, but then acceptance. I only remember the stark improvement of seeing the blackboard- nothing else. I think that’s because not being able to read lessons on the board was terrifying.

    I had a friend who had cataract surgery in her 70s. Afterwards she told me that she never realized she had wrinkles. Growing older is nothing personal. It just is.

    The sad thing is how many children will look back at their childhood with glowing warm memories of the different Smartphone and iPad models.

    1. I didn’t realize Silly Putty still is available, but it certainly is. You even can get it in a vintage package. The only thing is, printing has changed, and you can’t pull images from comic books any more. Too bad. That was fun.

      As I remember, by the time I got to junior high and high school — you too, probably — glasses weren’t such a big deal. Many more kids had them, and then Buddy Holly came along, and every guy wanted to look like him. I swear there were boys with Buddy Holly glasses who didn’t need them, just like the poseurs of today.

      I laughed at your friend’s post-cataract-removal experience. It sounds not unlike walking into a room filled with fluorescent lights. It’s not an experience for the faint-hearted.

      As for those gadgets — we’ll just have to hope they have teachers who still can relate to them as people. I know there are some. May their tribe increase.

      Linda

  17. Ah and here we are with the leaves again. Maybe the ocean is a symbol of eternal continuity, but the leaf a symbol for hanging on. Like this excerpt from O’Henry’s The Last Leaf:

    ..” look out the window, dear, at the last ivy leaf on the wall. Didn’t you wonder why it never fluttered or moved when the wind blew? Ah, darling, it’s Behrman’s masterpiece – he painted it there the night that the last leaf fell.”

    1. Thanks for the reminder of that wonderful story, Judy. I read it again, with great enjoyment.

      It reminded me of one of my favorite songs from Pink Martini. Do you know them? Here’s their “Hang On, Little Tomato” . The lyrics are included, just below the video. It’s such a sweet song. If I still were in school and looking for a nice piece for a program, it’s got a great clarinet part. You could sing!

      Linda

  18. When I was in grade four, a family friend was the substitute teacher in my class. She noticed I sharpened my pencil a tad too often, and what unfolded was pretty much a replication of your story. I recall the trip home after getting glasses: “Mom,” I said “there are letters on the green signs by the road!” Poor mother was aghast, but the story reminds me of our ability to compensate, and our success in so doing. Perhaps this too speaks to our ability to hasten to your call to “cling tenaciously to the branch.”

    1. That’s a great point you make, Allen. We do learn to compensate. Sometimes we know we have a deficiency and know we’re making up for it. But even when we don’t know we’re missing out on life somehow, it’s amazing how well we can manage. Blessed are we if someone notices, and helps us out.

      I smiled at your sudden realization that the signs had names on them. How often do we see signs, but can’t interpret them? Your story’s a great, concrete example.

      We often talk about how smells or sounds will enliven the past, but it can work the other way, too. You wrote, “I sharpened my pencil a tad too often,” and suddenly I could smell the shavings. Getting to empty the pencil sharpener was a great privilege in our classrooms, rather like cleaning the erasers. And I still keep a manuel pencil sharpener, just because…

      Linda

  19. We’re seeing fast unleaving here, another Autumn. That’s right, however beautiful and glorious those yellows and golds are, they are fast disappearing in my neck of the woods. Many branches are bare now, and snow will come real soon. Usually the first snow comes on Halloween day, just layman’s almanac. That’s why the photos are all memories of finer days. Now, to your new camera. I’m sure that will be a precious tool for you to still the moment, like preserving fruits from the fall harvest, leaving you with something to cherish when it’s too cold to work. ;)

    1. Arti, I hardly can believe we’re halfway through October. And even though you had that unexpected early snowfall, it seems too early for your leaves to be gone and the winter season truly to have begun. I stll haven’t seen a coot here. Perhaps your turning season will encourage them to get a move on.

      What I did see today was just a bit of red sumac. It’s time for me to push a bit harder and get ahead in my work, so that when the leaves in the hill country change, I can leave to see the leaves (!) — in the middle of the week. It’s far more pleasant when you aren’t in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I’m hoping to have some good photos to show you, of our little bit of autumn woods.

      I’m having to sit on myself to stay away from the camera. There’s too much else that needs doing. But I have discovered that even fifteen minutes here and there, shooting the same thing while changing the settings, is good practice for getting comfortable with the controls, and seeing what they do. Nothing fancy for now — but I’m more convinced than I was that I got the right camera for me.

      Linda

  20. Beautifully written recall of days spent, meshed with aging of the body and fallen leaves. You were fortunate to have a teacher that was observant and who then acted on what she learned.

    My son said this to me one day, “we are born to live and then live to die.” I don’t know if he read that or voiced that from his own thinking but it surely is true. And I will add this, “we die a little bit each day.” I think about these things often and hope that when I die my death will be like that of a fallen leaf. One day alive and then the next off the limb of life. All that sounds a bit morbid so I’ll go leave that alone. :-)

    I’ve worn glasses since my late twenties. In my 50’s I was diagnosed with glaucoma and I now have cataracts in addition. i do not take my eyesight for granted and I’m grateful each day that I can see.

    I really liked your lovely wording of this post.

    1. Gratitude’s so important, isn’t it? Every day is a gift, just waiting to be opened — and used. I’ve always liked what Annie Dillard said on the matter: “Spend the afternoon, you can’t take it with you.” We’re so interested in saving time, but we need to spend a little, too.

      You’ve got a wise son, Yvonne. Wherever he came up with that saying, it is true. The older I get, the more I think about it — not in any particularly morbid sense, but just as a way of acknowledging that my time is limited. When I think to myself, “Maybe I’ve got twenty years left,” it makes watching Pawn Stars or spending time on social media seem a little silly.

      Speaking of eyesight problems, I have a friend who just discovered her dog is nearly blind. It’s a healthy critter, but quite old. She wouldn’t have known it, except she rearranged the furniture in the house, and the poor thing kept walking into it. She called her vet and took the dog in, where it was diagnosed. Then she asked what she should do. Her vet said, quite reasonably, “Put the furniture back the way it was.” And she did, and all is well. It’s just amazing, how all of us are able to adapt.

      Linda

  21. Your prose takes your readers by their hands and leads them to the trunk of a stately walnut or sycamore, laden with leaves. Whether the dry leaves be, to the viewer or listener, blurry or clear, we know they will soon fall, as they have each year without exception.This is the message of the season: do not be surprised when the leaves fall, for you or for another soul. Be gladdened in the annual tempo.

    1. Cheri, your words remind me of the beauty of Ecclesiastes: to everything, there is a season, and a time for everything in the world. Even more, they call to mind the lovely “Circle Game.” Perhaps Judy Collins’s version is better known, but I’ve always been touched by Tom Rush’s way of presenting the song, especially when it’s paired with such a gentle video.

      Linda

  22. What a lovely and exquisite tale.

    Your words do hold the power of creating great visions for the reader. Aging , be it of the body, mind or fallen leaves remains that eternal truth in the world which we seem to instinctively avoid thinking of. Your prose so deftly yet powerfully has brought that centre stage.

    Shakti

    1. Shakti, thank you so much. There is so much unnatural death in the world — the deaths of war, for example — that we sometimes forget death also is a natural part of life. Taking time to think of it now and then is a good thing, and autumn is a natural time for such thoughts.

      Thank you for taking the time to add such a gracious comment.

      Linda

    1. Oh, my. I’d forgotten those. I think I must have gotten my contact lenses just about the time they were coming into fashion, else I might have had a pair myself. Pink plaid or white cat’s-eye, the important part was the “clear and focused” view of life they provided. I’m glad you enjoyed that wonderful improvement, too.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and for commenting. And thanks for the memory!

      Linda

  23. What an eloquent trilogy you bring to us this season rounding things out so adeptly and keeping things in perspective. My husband, too, had a perceptive and sensitive teacher who notified his mother of the sudden changes in his vision. He was in the 5th grade at the time and ever since has always worn glasses. He was never a candidate for contact lenses. As he visits the eye doctor now, he has been warned about driving at twilight and to come back in about a year when he will probably need cataract surgery. “How will I know when to come?” he asked the doctor. The doctor just responded, “You’ll know and you’ll be back.”

    btw As we sit out here on the back porch at all times of the day, Rick will take out his camera, point and shoot with the powerful lens and image stabilizer. What amazes me is the photos with trees take up much more mg. than creatures. “Is it photographing every leaf?” I ask him.

    1. I had to laugh, Georgette. That’s exactly the same thing my eye doctor said to me when I inquired about when cataract surgery might be called for. “You’ll know,” he said. I’ve cut back on my own night driving, although it seems that things are better right now.

      Has Rick experienced “second sight” yet? I was so confused at one point. My vision suddenly improved remarkably. As it turns out, there’s a point in cataract development when changes in the eye bring make close vision much better. It doesn’t last, but it was an interesting experience.

      Just in this little group of commenters, there were so many who were helped by a teacher who noticed their plight. I’m sure I recall us having vision and hearing checks in grade school, but that kind of screening, though helpful, isn’t as good as close observation.

      It must be such fun to watch the season change in your new place. I’d be taking pictures of every single leaf, myself.

      Linda

  24. I got my first glasses in fourth grade & had the same experience you did – on the way home from the doctor’s office I kept exclaiming about the LEAVES ON THE TREES! It was fabulous. I had pretty ugly glasses too – the frames had belonged to my mother. Here’s a link to a blog post with a picture (ok, I’ve looked up how & I’m going to try to use some html code here. I’m counting on you to fix it if I don’t get it right :) ): Fifth Grade

    Oh, and your thoughts about autumn in particular and general, in youth and later in life… yes. Sigh.

    1. The photo’s wonderful, Dana — and you got the code just right. Yea, you! And believe me, I laughed when I got to the line about you becoming your mom’s “grammar police.”

      It’s pretty amazing to remember those days when eyeglass frames were reused or passed down. My mother always, but always, had a new prescription put into old frames. That Depression generation had it in their bones — the thriftiness.It was like the soup pot. If there was a half-cup of carrots left at dinner, there was no throwing it away. Into the pot with it.

      I was thinking about our blades of grass and tree leaves, and it occurred to me that may be one reason I’ve come to love macro photography. It’s fun to see such sharp, detailed images. On the other hand, maybe fuzzy vision isn’t such a bad thing as we age.
      I’d rather have fuzzy vision than a fuzzy mind.

      Linda

  25. Linda, thank you for this thoughtful and lyrical post. A meditation on the vicissitudes and the transience of life, how aptly rendered in conjunction with this season of slow sleepiness and decay.

    I too experienced a similar lack of eyesight. Mine was detected when I was still very small because my ‘lazy’ eye turned into a squint which needed correcting. Sadly, my parents did not force me to wear the eye glasses which would encourage this eye to ‘see’. The squint was corrected but my vision has been poor for most of my life.

    (Just as an aside, now that I am ageing, and the ‘good’ eye is losing strength, the ‘lazy’ eye is making an effort to compensate.)

    1. Isn’t the body an amazement, Friko? I’m unaccountably cheered by the thought of your ‘lazy’ eye getting with it, and trying to help out the team. I discovered while doing a little reading that I’ve had a common misconception about the nature of lazy eye: that it’s simply another phrase for crossed eyes. Not so. Thank goodness for the varoius aids that help us cope with these deficiencies.

      My own mother tended to be forceful about the need for me to stick to this or that regime, and she was having none of my initial fussing about needing glasses. Eventually, I learned the truth: that she needed glasses in school, but wasn’t able to afford them. She was out of high school and married before she had her own experience of seeing the world clearly. In fact, she once said “hand work” was her favorite subject in school, because she could see so well what she was doing.

      There’s an indication of a changing world — hand work as a part of schooling!

      Linda

  26. Why am I not surprised that you selected a chair in the front row? My granddaughter is going to need glasses and she sits in the front row. I think it will also help with her penchant for talking during class.

    This was beautiful, Linda. I hope you get good news about your eyes. This deminishment of vision in the autumn of life is a lousy joke on those of us who love to read and write.

    1. I had tendencies toward shyness at that age, so it may well have been vision problems that moved me toward the front. Sometimes I remember the “what,” but not the “why” of things back then. Of course, “Why” is hard enough to figure out in the present: as in, “why can’t I just keep my mouth shut when I should?” :-)

      I had an interesting experience last weekend, after picking up my new contact lenses. The prescription was changed in only one, and I found myself having a terrible time reading. Everything was much sharper, but I had double vision. When I called to inquire, the person in the office said to give it a little time, while my eyes got used to working together in a new way. In fact, it has improved.

      How are your eyes doing? I think I remember every-six-month treatments, but I could be wrong.

      Linda

  27. As I say with each of your post, beautifully written.

    I especially appreciate this: the great tree of life sheds each of us as naturally as the maple sheds its leaves. It is, as you say, the way of the world.

    My father had a heart attack and was shed by the great tree when he was 49 years old. Both his father and grandfather had died of heart attacks in their early 50s. My father assumed that he too was destined for an early grave and I remember him saying so many times.

    So naturally I believed that was my fate as well and when I planned for my life I didn’t plan for anything after age 50. Until one day I just decided that I was done with that way of thinking. It just dawned on me (surprisingly suddenly) that it was stupid way to think and live, and I wasn’t going to do it anymore.

    I’m now 54 and I am, to the best of my knowledge, in excellent health. I’m happily enjoying life and rather looking forward to the privileges of old age, even though I expect to miss some of the benefits of middleagedness.

    So with you I plan to cling to my branch with tenacity, and fall in my season with grace, secure in the knowledge that the grove itself will endure, golden in the falling light. That, it seems to me, is how it should be.

    Thanks for this wonderful post and the invitation to reflect on the autumn of life.

    1. Bill, you may have seen my comment to Steve, above, about my mother, whose experience was similar to yours. Once she had passed the “outer limit” for longevity in her family (I believe it was 66), she felt as though she was on borrowed time, and wasn’t going to make it much longer — maybe even past the next trip to the grocery store.

      Of course, she made it another twenty-seven years, most of which were very good ones. I can’t imagine that I’ll outlive Mom, but what I can guarantee is that I’m not going to live every day wondering how long I’ll live.

      I’m pretty sure that your chances for a long and healthy life were substantially increased once you made your career change. When it comes to genetics, there’s no changing the card we’re dealt, but we certainly have control over many of the circumstances that shape how that card is played. One of the first acronyms I learned about when I got my first computer was GIGO — garbage in, garbage out. I’ve had occasion since to ponder how true that is, in a multitude of ways.

      Thanks so much for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      Linda

  28. Linda, this story – essay – poetry piece was so rich in the melancoly of things autumnal. Moments fading, passing, never to be retrieved, breaking the link in a living chain – all experienced ultimately by all.

    Last month i joined the octogenarian club, by celebrating my 80th birthday. Four score now, into my alloted time, I have vowed to cherish and enjoy every moment that comes my way. Life is as rich and full as the crimson leaves that populate the tree, before the first begins to fall.

    1. Mary, my best friend turned 80 last summer. A few years ago, she had a stroke. Then, two years ago, she had an accident that resulted in a broken arm and smashed knee. Last month, she headed off on yet another trip, this time for two weeks in St. John’s. While mountain hiking and sailing are off her list of recreational pursuits, her life is as good as ever. Those who tell us we can’t keep enjoying life as we increase in years are just wrong.

      I’ve known people who grow gloomy in any sort of autumn, but nostalgia and a bit of melanchology are quite different experiences than gloominess– at least for me. They add to the richness of life, and never detract.

      Linda

  29. Oh, yes. My glasses happened in first grade — my eyesight was good enough to read unhampered, but it was my first grade teacher sent the note home. Mine were blue, cats eyes shaped. I wandered the neighborhood seeing things clearly for the first time, and still remember the marvel of it. I need to go to an ophthalmologist again. The eye-care person at the VA is only a PA, I think, and there’s a history of cancer of the optic nerve and Fuch’s dystropy on my mother’s side, plus my dad had macular degeneration. I’m starting to get cataracts myself — which are caused by living long enough to get them.

    1. As I understand it, WOL, that’s why such procedures as cataract removal, knee replacement, and so on, are put off as long as practical. Better to wait a little longer than to do something too soon, and have the person outlive their repair.

      Your mention of wandering the neighborhood, marveling at your new sight, reminded me that I hadn’t run a check I meant to. There’s a line of boats along the first dock across from me. I’d gotten to the point that I couldn’t read the names on the sterns clearly. I just walked in the bedroom and took a look. They’re readable. It’s not perfect, but it’s better. At this point, I’ll take better.

      Your point about living long enough to get cataracts is well taken. Maybe we should consider them badges of honor, along with wrinkles, gray hair, arthritic knuckles and whatever other afflictions come our way.

      Linda

  30. I just loved this post, Linda. Autumn is my favourite season, Dylan Thomas’ ‘Poem in October’ my favourite autumn poem. And I love Robin Williamson’s version of October Song.

    Yet again, there are parallels between us, in addition to lifelong short sight – I used to joke that I saw naturally what Monet painted…..I have had glaucoma kept at bay for five years with drops…but now I am to have laser surgery shortly on my weaker eye. Intimations of mortality, best accepted rather than denied…I wondered where my glaucoma came from. Then I recalled my father confiscating my beloved Grandpa Calum’s bicycle when he was 77. The family were afraid he’d cycle into a wall. So I guess I probably have my answer. Genetics.

    1. Anne, despite what had to be some distress and frustration on your grandfather’s part, the thought of the family confiscating his bicycle lest he run headfirst into a wall made me laugh. Today, the ritual known as “the taking of the car keys” gets all the attention, but the truth is the same: the diminution of our physical abilities means lessened mobility, greater dependence, and the frustation of feeling less free.

      Interesting that we’ve been dealing with glaucoma for a similar period. It’s amazing, really, that such a simple treatment helps to keep us sighted. The even better news, of course,is that surgical procedures for cataracts and other eye problems have become so commonplace and so effective. I’m sure your procedure will go well. No walking into walls for you!

      Linda

  31. Having an eighteen month older brother, I grew up in a world of hand-me-downs.

    Like you, because of less than perfect eyesight, I sat in the front row in grade school. When my parents became aware of my myopia it was time to visit the opthamologist. My brother, who already wore glasses, but needed stronger ones, was scheduled a visit at the same time. Wouldn’t you know it; my brother needed new glasses and his old ones matched my prescription!

    A few years later I visited an optician to enquire about new glasses. I picked the Buddy Holly look, and the optician asked if my father worked for the government (which he did). This made me eligible for a discount. Total cost of frames and lenses was $7.50.

    Many years later after a heart operation my eyesight changed (coincidentally?) to near normal. This was confirmed with the latest drivers license renewal vision test. Now I use ‘cheaters’ for reading, and at $3.50 a pair, there are several around the house.

    While I’m not immune to your metaphorical winter, I have escaped the physical ones by retiring in Panama. Most of the trees here keep their leaves year round.

    PS If you want a visual photographic treat, visit ‘Toad Hollow Photography’.

    1. You’re had quite a visual journey yourself, Rick. I smiled at your use of the word “cheaters” for reading glasses. It’s a familiar word around these parts, too. The phrase “cheating death” is famililar. Maybe with our glasses we’re cheating the great gods of visual acuity.

      It’s wonderful that your vision improved – that’s serendipity run amok. I’m not willing to undergo heart surgery for improvement, of course. I’ll stick with my eye drops, and be grateful for the improvement that’s come.

      While we don’t have the same kind of leaf drop common farther north, I have noticed something since our first real cold front came through last week. The goldenrod suddenly is blooming, everywhere. It may be that the cold weather triggers the bloom — a counterintuitive but delightful seasonal change.

      Linda

  32. Poignant, insightful, and inspirational!

    Childhood and old-age, on opposite ends of life’s spectrum, are yet be thoroughly understood. To many, the metamorphosis is sometimes painful and bewildering, especially when debilitating changes occur over time.

    My mother suffered with muscular atrophy in her latter years. In 1996 she had to be confined to her bed because she could no longer walk. I was deeply affected by this. Here’s what I wrote in a novella, “The House of Tears”: “While holding her, she pleads softly with us to be gentle as her body is always sore and she cannot stand the pain. The childlike quality of her voice always hits me right between the eyes and I have to assert an iron self control to stop the wilting within me. What cruel metamorphosis did this? Vitalien’s voice could always cut you down to size like a whiplash. Man, woman, child or beast, it really didn’t matter; the strong, assertive tone of her voice moved you in one way or another. But this was another time, in another place, where the woman in her had succumbed to the child.”

    I’ll turn 56 next month, and I’ve already discovered that along with some very slight muscle pains, my memory isn’t quite what it used to be.

    Thanks for a very lovely post!

    1. What I found most interesting as my mother aged was that she became more childlike. I, in turn, took over the role of the parent — quite a change, to be sure! I think we sometimes are offended, or perplexed, or fearful of the changing relationships that come with age or infirmity — but they are a part of life.

      Your words about your mother are touching, and very true to life. If nothing else, I think such experiences help us by revealing to us strengths we didn’t know we have.

      Now, I must say — you’re a veritable youngster! I’ll be turning 68 soon, and I must say it was rather disconcerting recently to have one of my customers — younger than me — pass away. We just never know. It’s a reminder to cherish every day, no?

      Linda

    1. Thanks, BW. If I were in your place, I’d not be a tiny bit distracted. I’d be — well, something. Take a deep breath from time to time. I hope things are going well. I wish I could come over and knock on doors for you!

      Linda

  33. Wonderful … and it was nice to see the Maple tree. Again, the tree is at that stage. I hope to see it many more times.

    I too remember to this day when I wore my first pair of glasses. I came out of the optometrists office and into a city street with neon signs and all of the other lights and realized they were words and there was information everywhere. I still smile every time I think of it!

    I continue to enjoy each of your postings even if my replies are few and far between.

    1. It’s such a wonderful experience when pieces of the natural world become like old friends: steady, dependable, familiar.

      I still think from time to time about the sense of dislocation and abandonment many residents of Galveston experienced after Hurricane Ike took their oak trees.. Of course, those oaks were planted to replace the ones taken by the Great Storm of 1900. It’s a good reminder that not every natural cycle can be contained within our lifetime.

      I’m glad to know you’re still “out there.” Clearly, I have my own issues keeping up with everything, but I do suspect we’ll be reading and writing and picture-taking for some years (even decades!) yet.

      Linda

  34. That is exactly what my near-sighted high school friend said when she finally got glasses, “There are leaves on the trees!” Though she resisted glasses for more vain reasons, just as she resisted seat belts because they wrinkled her clothes.

    We, too, are unleaving here, Linda, though not nearly as prettily as many parts of the country. And I suppose that’s true of people as well.

    1. I was happy to get contact lenses in high school for those same reasons of vanity. On the other hand, the delight of being able to see made up for a lot.

      I laughed at your friend’s concern over seat-belt wrinkles. Then, I wondered when seat belts actually became features in cars, and when they were required. It looks like 1958 was the year they became standard in autos — I would have been twelve, and in 7th grade I don’t remember using them, but I suspect we did: though not in back seats. That came later.

      Isn’t “unleaving” a great word? I like the way it keeps the trees in the equation.

      Linda

  35. A timely post to read tonight. I feel as though I must indeed cling to that branch. Perhaps it seems all the more personal because of today’s visit to the eye doctor. Ah yes, the cataracts begin, although he saw no need to do anything about it for a bit; indeed, things aren’t so bad as I thought. Yet it’s a little harder to read, the eyes get tired.

    Not just the eyes. The knees that feel as though the time may have come to do something about them, at least see what must be done. The arthritis in the hand that leads me to feel my knitting days are nearing an end. Will I have to learn to cut left-handed? Shouldn’t be hard, given that I am left handed, but have always cut with the right. The headache that will not go away today; forcing myself to stay up so I won’t wake in the middle of the night for hours. That’s my day today. Tomorrow may be better, one can hope.

    I look at autumn, at your leaves clinging to the branch and yes, it is indeed a metaphor. Certainly for today but I suspect for more than that. Is that why autumn is my melancholy season? In winter I’m simply grumpy and cold but autumn brings reflection. Much to ponder.

    1. Oh, Jeanie. Isn’t it a trial when the nagging afflictions begin to pile up? Mom went through so much of this — the loss of strength in her cutting hand, the problems that arthritis brought. But when she did real damage to her left hand, and the surgeon asked her what level of use she wanted to regain, she said, “I want to be able to knit.” And she did. Granted, there were months of therapy, and gizmos to wear, and some frustration, but I have the scarf she knit for me when it all was over. She was 86 at the time.

      Eventually, it was poor eyesight that ended her needlepoint, and an inability to concentrate on patterns that ended her knitting. But she had the same kind of pluck you do, and I suspect you have plenty of creative time ahead of you.

      I’m no Pollyanna, but I wouldn’t worry too much about your cataracts. Mine are developing very slowly, and most of people I’ve known with them have had the same experience. Out of curiosity, I called my eye doctor today and asked when he first noticed them. The one in my left eye showed up in 2001, thirteen years ago. They didn’t become noticeable to me until five years ago, but that’s still slow development. I hope yours is, too.

      You’ve been so much on the go. Maybe it’s time to go fallow for just a while, and replenish yourself.

      Linda

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