Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Preservation

On my dining table, under a circular piece of glass
sits a small oak leaf.
I am determined to preserve it.
The glass disc is the only remaining evidence of my gourmet cheesecake pan. It serves as the pan's foundation and was involuntarily separated from its springform ring last Christmas.
Though alone it serves no purpose, I refused to discard it, believing it would someday prove useful.
When time allows, I will Google leaf preservation techniques.
Perhaps my oak leaf will find its way into a shadow box and eventually, onto my bedroom wall to serve as a reminder of promises made.

This leaf and I have only just become friends.
I noticed it on my way to work this morning. It is small and unassuming.
In fact, if placed between two more vibrant, spectacular foliage specimens, it would likely go unnoticed. If not for the irritating clicking noise it made, caught beneath my wiper blade, I might have missed it completely.
Had I noticed it before merging onto the highway, I might have extracted it with nary a thought for its significance. However, I chose to err on the side of caution and wait for a safer
opportunity to remove it.
At some point along my course however, I gave pause to consider one of two possibilities; either this leaf was attempting to break free, or perhaps instead, was holding on for dear life.
Closer inspection forced me to accept the latter, recognizing the strength of this seemingly fragile specimen as it battled the elements of its ever changing environment.
Neither wind nor speed had managed to force it free.
In that moment, I realized how alike this leaf and I might be;
both of us plagued by the uncertainty of how our journey
would end.
I hesitate to speak of what this leaf has endured for we have only just met, but I dare to speculate; I understand well the uneasiness that so often accompanies simple souls, as we grasp for solid foundation while life moves so swiftly around us.
I expect that this leaf has seen and endured transformation; none of which has been voluntary. Undoubtedly, it has watched friends fall, while others have drifted away.
In its short lifetime, it has aged through many capricious seasons.
I wondered, did this leaf know when it broke free from its sheltering tree that at times, the journey might seem impossible?
So young and seemingly misguided, would it be ill-prepared to face the challenges of unexpected weather?
For most of us, only life experience affords us the knowledge that often a comfortable, warm breeze signals the arrival of a pending storm. Clearly, my leaf had not lived long enough to know most things.
And furthermore, had this leaf ever considered the purpose
of its own existence?

Halfway through my drive, as I observed the magnificence of foliage in unison, I realized this was likely too much to expect from one single leaf.
I pondered the possibility that perhaps I misjudged my new friend.
The thought occurred to me that maybe this leaf spared little effort fretting over an uncertain future, and instead channeled its energy to remain anchored during an unpredictable, yet exhilarating ride.
In this fleeting moment of clarity, I made a pact with my new friend; I promised both of us that if it held on tightly and arrived at our destination intact, I would work diligently toward change.
Though the odds were against this leaf not blowing away, the hopefulness I felt for my little leaf could prove to be the catalyst for a much needed personal transformation.
For far too long I have known an intimate relationship with fear.
By dwelling on the missteps of an uncharted past, and the uncertainty of the future, I have willingly accepted paralysis in place of present living.
I know firsthand the worry that befalls parents of almost-grown children; not fully understanding who they are, and wishing so desperately for who they might become.
As a daughter of aging parents, I am overwhelmed by a sense of urgency to stop time in its tracks, to recall every word of wisdom shared, and to preserve the lifetime of love and support they have afforded me.
I know intimately the sensation of free-falling when relationships change, the nest grows empty, and self has no obvious definition.
I am familiar with the restlessness that accompanies an insatiable need to control, and the inevitable sadness of defeat.
That leaf, weathered and lackluster, keenly aware of the possibility of sudden departure, was still holding on enjoying the ride.
And though time has stolen some of my own flexibility and sheen,
I too want to enjoy the ride.
I long to experience those sensory joys I so eagerly embraced before worry and practicality consumed me.
Though my birthdate tells otherwise, I am a child of autumn.
You can keep your primary colors, your pastels, and your jewel tones, for none have moved me quite like the colors of fall.
Not long ago, the smell of woodsmoke coupled with foliage at its peak could bring me to happy tears.
I recall autumns of my youth spent perfecting my ability to whistle through the cap of an acorn.
I rejoiced at the sound of crunching leaves underfoot.
And now I am left only to wonder where that joie de vivre
has gone.
I suspect that like me, and my leaf, it is a little bit lost.

It was my own unexpected pleasure to arrive at work with
my leaf, battered but intact, resting beneath the wiper blade.
As I attempted to remove it, I nearly tore it in half.
How surprised I was to find its papery skin anchored by such a strong and pliable stem.
I placed the leaf in between the pages of my datebook with the intent to preserve it, and made my way into the office.
For most of the day, I considered my potential instability for having made a pact with a leaf.
But this experience only reinforces my belief that sometimes, in moments of absurdity, we learn a great deal about life.
Upon my return home, as I placed my leaf under glass, I considered the most obvious messages my commute had offered;
Though at times we may feel small and ordinary, each of us possesses incredible strength and resiliency.
When our foundation is strong, we are able to endure what seems impossible. And maybe, it is how we respond in those moments when we feel trapped or afraid, that determines the quality
of our journey.
Should we be forced to take an unexpected detour, we might, by our own acceptance of all that we cannot control, learn to
enjoy the ride.
But perhaps the greatest lesson came when I observed that under glass, my leaf seemed to possess a new vitality and luster.
At one time, that circle of glass, separated from its familiar support, seemed useless.
But recognition, if only by one, gave it new purpose.
And purpose it would seem, is the cornerstone
to self preservation.


This is my truth;
Ingest.

--Michelle

1 comment:

christopher said...

Couldn't help but sing that Sting song "every ripple on the ocean, every leaf on every tree"