Autumn Bookmarks: Falling in Love with My Past & Present
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
I found a leaf, by chance, pressed between the pages of an old encyclopedia I had sitting on the bookshelves in my writing studio.
I hadn’t picked up that encyclopedia in decades but happened to pluck it off my writing studio bookshelves, also by chance, as I felt suddenly compelled to reconnect to pages, to my past, rather than pull up an online “dictionary” via my MacBook software.
The leaf I happened upon – stuffed amongst the “M’s”, I assumed, because it was smack-dab in the middle of the dictionary where the weight was equally distributed – took me back to another place and time.
I immediately remembered the warm October afternoon my mom and I had found this gigantic oak leaf as we walked a trail in our sun-dappled Ozarks woods. I had picked up that leaf for an autumnal science project and then, after my assignment was over, had used it as a bookmark in my encyclopedia, a book I used to read obsessively, as I was fascinated as a kid by words, their origins, their definitions, their synonyms.
Book and leaf had remained united for decades.
That leaf and that encyclopedia were important pieces of my past: My mother, my Ozarks childhood, my love of words made me who I am today. They were my seeds of growth, just like the acorns I used to stumble across in our woods turned into giant oaks.
There is a beautiful symmetry in life, I’ve come to realize, an ability to grow up, move on, change, become a new person, without forgetting who you were. The trick is not to run away from our past but to allow ourselves to remember.
That rediscovered leaf – brittle, flattened, crumbling – allowed me to reconnect with my history.
The Octobers since Gary and I have moved to the Beach Coast – this is now our eighth – have become stoked in new traditions based in the past.
We gather acorns from our woods, which Gary stacks in McCoy pots and places around our cottage, “Turkey Run.” We stand under our towering sugar maples (now my favorite tree), wait for a strong wind to come and let the dazzling rainbow of leaves rain down over our bodies and gather at our feet. We then pick through them and gather our favorites – Gary loves the brilliant red while I adore the yellow-orange – which we use to decorate tables and fireplace mantels.
And, yes, we now press a few of those breathtakingly colorful maple leaves into a random assortment of books that stack our cottage – those bookshelves in my office, the canoe-shaped corner cabinets, the pine shelves that line Turkey Run – knowing that one day, in the future, we – or someone else – will happen to pop open a novel or even one of my memoirs, and there will be a fallen piece of our past waiting to open a piece of our future.
My old encyclopedia remains on my writing desk and holds two bookmarks: A leaf from my past and one from my present.