Freshly Fallen Leaves

(This is something I wrote a few weeks ago. It was not written for this space, but I thought, why not put it here after all. It can sit between the other loose figments of my mind.)


Freshly Fallen Leaves

The day had started badly and went downhill from there.

Cathie woke at 7 to the sound of Little One complaining that he could not sleep any more, even though it was Saturday and he did not need to go to school. Before breakfast, the boys managed to get into at least two fights (those were the ones loud enough for her to hear). Older One then refused to do his homework, it being weekend and he wanted to rest. And it was not fair for him to have homework anyway, while Little One just played. Cathie’s husband was still snoring happily upstairs, so no help from him, not today.

Nothing dramatic or even unusual, just the wild goose-chase she normally tackled quite easily with a mixture of routine and determination, but on this day it felt heavier, more unnerving.

At lunchtime she was already wishing it were Monday again, with everyone back at school and her being able to breathe in a quiet house.

In the afternoon, while the boys were having their music lessons, Cathie had just enough time to dash to the library to bring back some books. In the end it was getting late again of course, so she grabbed the books and ran. The shortest route was through the park, on a path lined with old trees she did not know the names of. At least some of them were chestnuts, she suspected. It had been raining, a stormy quick shower that had left the path with a coating of freshly fallen, wet leaves.

These leaves were, as it turned out, extremely slippery, especially if someone was running without paying much attention to their surrounding.

She fell in the most pathetic way imaginable, like a character in one of these old black-and-white movies. Her feet slid forward, she tried in vain to stabilize with her arms, which sent the books flying, then landed on her back, uttering a miserable squeaking sound. The sound embarrassed her more than the fall itself. But the embarrassment came later. First there was a breathlessness, then pain. Then anger and embarrassment. Cathie raised herself up to sitting. Here I am, she thought, hurting and wet and looking completely ridiculous. What a stupid day, stupid leaves, stupid everything! Without realizing what she was doing, she hit the ground with her fist. It hurt too. Great.

“That looked painful”, a voice said. Cathie looked up at the women standing in front of her. “It was.” She could not think of anything else to say, half expecting the woman to stretch out a hand to help her up. Instead, the woman looked at her for another moment, a slightly amused look on her face. Then she sat down next to her.

Cathie frowned. “Everything is wet here. Why are you sitting down?”

The woman still looked amused. “Why are you?”

“I fell, as I think you have noticed. I slipped on these stupid leaves. Now my back hurts and I am cold and wet and I hate this day. Thanks for asking.” That came out snappier than she normally would have spoken to a stranger, but the woman unnerved her.

“I see.” Then, after a pause: “These leaves are really pretty, don’t you think?” She ran her fingers over the wet surface.

Cathie stared at the women, who seemed to be absorbed in what she was doing, touching a red leave here, a brown one there. She seemed to be older than Cathie herself, maybe in her 50ies, but then Cathie had never been good at guessing someone’s age. Dressed maybe a little too thin for autumn weather, so as if she did not care. The hands that were still caressing the leaves looked as if they were used to working a lot.

Cathie wanted to say something, something sarcastic and smart, something that would unload the frustration that had been building up inside her the whole day.

But instead she looked. The leaves were pretty. Some were brown, some red, some yellow, some still green. Different shapes, having fallen from different trees. “Chestnut”, the woman said, touching a brown one. “Acorn” – a dark red one. “Birch” – a yellow one with tiny dark spots. As the women turned her head, Cathy noticed her eyes. They were the same color as the chestnut leaf.

Cathie felt a shy smile forming inside her. “They are pretty”, she said.

“As are your books.” The woman turned her head in the direction of the library books, spread out around them.

“The library – I am late!” Cathie scrambled to her feet, picking up the books, which seemed to be only wet from the outside. She wiped them clean on her coat. “I need to go.” The woman tilted her face up to her. There were fine lines around her eyes. “You might just make it in time – if you don’t run so very fast”, she said.

Cathie shook her head, not knowing if that was her answer or just an expression of her uncertainty. She turned and walked away, books held close to her chest, when she realized how rude it was to go without saying good-bye. Turning again, she saw that the woman had gotten up too. She was walking towards the other end of the park, carrying two heavy looking plastic bags Cathie had not noticed before. As if she felt Cathie’s gaze, she stopped and looked back. Putting down one of the bags she raised her arm to a short wave. Despite herself, Cathie waved back.

When she arrived at the library a few minutes later, the big doors were just being shut.

Oh, well. Cathie shrugged and looked at her watch. She still had some time before it was time to pick up the boys. She could gather some leaves for them. Maybe they would like the colors, and now she could even tell them their names.


Changing of the Seasons – Changing of the Mind?

After a long summer, autumn is here now. This summer had had a slow start in the Netherlands, and when the summer holidays ended and school started again end of August (I know, really early – but that is 6 weeks of summer holidays for you…) many people said there had been no summer at all. But as soon as the kids sat in their classrooms, the weather switched to warm. Switched to hot even. We have had the hottest September since they started recording the weather (1901, if you are in for the numbers) – during the second week we even hit the 30 degrees Celsius. And so we had beach afternoons after school – my kids were even swimming in the North Sea, which they had not done the whole season – picnics in the park, water fights in the garden.

But it seems that at one point the weather realised it was behaving strangely. Temperatures have been going down slowly, and one can feel a difference in the air. We will still have 20 degrees today, but the mood has changed. Autumn is here.

So I spent some time in the park last Saturday, sitting on a bench on my own, looking at the trees and the grass and the sky. The leaves start to turn yellow, but I think that is more because of the dry weather we had (I have been watering my garden the last weeks, something I normally don’t have to do in September). The sky was still very blue – enhanced by my sun glasses.

I sat and looked and thought.

It seems that especially the change from summer to autumn touches something inside.  At least inside me. If affects me differently than the other seasons changes do. When winter changes into spring, I am all bouncy and happy, start working in the garden, dream of sitting outside in the sun. When spring changes into summer, I am busy hunting for my summer clothes and the sandals in the cellar, drag the hammock outside and eat salad a lot. During summer I hardly find time for writing blog posts, although I continue reading posts (luckily not everyone is as lazy as me). But when it gets cooler, the air smells of falling leaves and there is that special chill returning to the evening, I start getting philosophical. Suddenly my mind wakes up and starts asking questions. About life as such and my life in particular. About ageing and priorities. About what I am doing with my life.

Is it because the change to autumn already hints at the next change, the one to winter? Not that I don’t like winter – I think every season has its charms, although if I could, I would probably shorten winter a bit. (Maybe having three months of spring and autumn each, four months of summer and two months of winter?) But autumn and winter, they always remind us that nothing lasts forever. Of course after winter, there will be the next spring… but what if not? Would we still like it, embrace it?

As I said, autumn brings thoughts into my head, they tumble around like the leaves in the wind.

But as I look outside, the sun is edging around the neighbour’s house to greet me. It is a bit chilly this morning, but the sky is still blue, in the afternoon it will be pleasantly warm again. So let’s enjoy the beauty of autumn, while it lasts (I am sure we are in for enough of the grey-misty-cloudy-wet days too).

Summer was good. Now choose autumn. And be.


Autumn Thoughts

Last weekend, autumn showed itself from its best side in the Netherlands. Many people see it as a sort of hobby to complain about Dutch weather, but last Saturday I think even the most dedicated critics were silent. The sun was shining in a clear blue sky, there as almost no wind, the temperature was mild. I went for a walk in the park and was surrounded by colour.

Leaves everywhere, a lot still on the trees, but also masses of them covering the ground like a carpet. Yellow ones, some with green bits, some with red, orange ones, dark caramel ones, fiery red ones. I started picking some up, feeling like a child again.

As so very often when I am walking on my own, my thoughts started to fan out. I thought about the seasons, how good it was to experience different ones. I love spring, I adore summer, but constant summer, no. There is much to be said about autumn and winter too. And what about the seasons of a person’s life? Isn’t it good to have them too? I certainly would not like to be stuck in a constant spring. Being a teenager forever? Not thank you. Summer is great, but what about autumn and winter?

So what age rage would I assign to the seasons? 20 years a season would make calculating really easy, but that would mean summer would end with 40 and winter would start with 60, which does not feel right. (Might also be influenced by the fact that with this range, I would have entered “autumn” last year, and I am not so sure about that yet…) So, what about spring until 25, summer until 50, autumn until 75 and winter from there on? Feels about right. That way, not only I can assign myself a couple of more years of summer 😉 but also my parents-in-law would still be in autumn, which does seem to be the case, active as they are. My mum would be in winter, and I guess that is correct too.

So, what is the point of all this? I am not sure there is.

Does one always have to have a point? Maybe not. This blog being what it is – a home for my random thoughts, a place for them to settle down instead of humming around in my head – I can just leave it like this.

But maybe, if there is a point, it might be this: Walking through this park, enjoying the beauty of autumn, I felt not only good about the seasons in the outside world, but also about the seasons in me. Even if I still place myself in summer, just to be sure. 😉