Last autumn’s leaves have not yet composted, so they cover the parts of the path that aren’t muddy. The trees in my Ottawa, Canada climate are budding, but branches are still bare of leaves. Muted colours of grey and brown and dark forest green dominate.
I rounded a corner in the path. Up ahead, white leaves fluttered on a single tree. With branches stretched out in a triangular shape, the leaves resembled the flickering lights of a Christmas tree.
I stopped to appreciate it. I walked closer to examine the leaves. I thought about another of Robert MacFarlane’s words: marcescence. It can refer to trees that hold on to leaves through winter, or people who wither but don’t fall.
Others might have passed by without noticing the simple gift of nature. I’m glad that I walk mindfully, on the lookout for sparks of light on my path.
If we’re watchful, we can perceive those little boosts to the spirits. They help us duringtimes when we’re withering, so we don’t fall.
In honour of my aunt’s 80th birthday, I’m re-posting a piece from a few years ago. Blessings to her again!
My Aunt Erma celebrates a birthday today. She is a strong woman in a family of strong women. I’m proud to say that when the women in our family have an idea or a purpose, stand back.
From her I learned:
How to be authentic – You might not agree with my Aunt Erma’s opinions on any given matter, but you can be certain to know what they are. She never puts on airs or hides her true feelings behind a façade of false politeness. I admire her forthright approach to life and the authentic soul I see because of it.
How to tell a tale – My aunt has had many stories published in the local paper, and her writing group—The Henscratchers—published a book. I appreciate her ability to capture life in a story or a poem.
How to weather a storm – She has had more than her share of uncommon heartbreaking events in her life—the kind that knock you off your feet for more than a few days. I respect her strength and resilience in bouncing back, picking herself up and carrying on.
How to entertain a whole room – Give my Aunt Erma a guitar and some elbow room, and she’ll happily provide the songs for the night. She and her sisters (including my mother) have sung together at community events. I envy her enthusiastic ability to sing out without inhibition.
How to teach with calm assurance – My aunt was the kind of teacher who kept order in the classroom and expected the best from her students. She’s petite, so her authority came from her manner, not her stature.
There’s a whole lot of power packed into a diminutive woman in my Aunt Erma. I would say that she’s like her mother in that regard (my grandmother), but I’m not sure she’d like that. .
Like all strong women, she might have ruffled some feathers over the years. More than one person might have shaken their head and said, “Oh, that Erma . . .”
If I can live authentically, inspire with calm assurance, weather life’s storms with strength, live to tell the tale and entertain a whole room with songs, then I will be happy to ruffle a few feathers along my own way.