What’s going on? A yellow leaf floats gently by, guided by a light breeze. It can’t be … fall already? Summer has been so short. A gust of air, and I watch another leaf fall. This one lands on my head. Lifting it down, I marvel at its fall dress. A bit of green is still showing, but the rest is streaked with orange, yellow, and brown. It flaunts its beauty unapologetically, as if to say “Look at me, see what wonders change can bring.”
Sinking down on my bench, I look up at the tree. It is ablaze with leaves in full colour, waiting for their appointed time to fall. With shock I realize that autumn isn’t on its way, it is fully here. The seasons have changed without my noticing.
“Why is it always this way?” I muse. “Change always comes, yet I fail to see it coming. Only when it flies in my face or lands on my head, do I wake up and recognize a different reality.”
The seasons of my life have slipped by me. I didn’t think about it when I was just living. There was no notice given, no fanfare, and very little conscious thought of life’s changing path or of personal changes. Decades marched by. One day I stopped to comb my hair. I looked in the mirror and gasped. Who was this woman I was seeing? I didn’t recognize her. Without my being aware of it, my seasons had been lived … spring, summer, fall all gone … and I found myself deep in winter. The falling of my life’s “autumn leaves” failed to alert me that major changes were slowly being made, externally and internally.
The older I get, the faster the pile of remaining days dwindles. Now I look back and remember, more often than I look ahead and plan. Rejoicing and grieving travel hand in hand. So much left to do and enjoy, and yet so many empty seats at the table. The intense pleasure experienced daily from little things, the curiosity about what tomorrow will bring, keeps life appealing and beckons me on.
In 1937 Don Blanding, a poet, artist, and lover of life wrote “The Rest of the Road.” The last verse of that poem reads:
“How long? How far? How hard? How fine?
How heavy or light the load?
If it’s half as good as the half I’ve known
Here’s Hail! … to the rest of the road.”
This poem was written approximately eighty years ago, and has been a favourite of mine for seventy. Even in my winter, it still gives voice to my belief that life should be joyous, and that it can be so for me until my pile of days runs out. I creak my way into bed, pull my comfy quilt up to my chin, chuckle and whisper, “Here’s Hail! … to the rest of the road.”