My favorite season of the year to row is Autumn. Sometimes with others, most often alone.
Boat traffic on the lake is minimal; the trees along the shoreline are resplendent in color; not a sound is heard but the rhythmic splash of the oars and my labored breathing; and eventually the green-become-red and yellow leaves will layer the water’s black surface creating a carpet of color separated by the wake left behind my narrow, fragile shell, whirl-pooled behind the blades.
Sometimes I imagine myself sculling through the stars.
Upon returning to the dock, I place my oars in their slot, rack my shell, and finally check my phone.
Like dark foreboding clouds pregnant with rain, their soon arrival heralded by the stirring of the leaves, the troubling of the otherwise glass-like water that will rock my fragile craft, the voicemail message was brooding, burdening, impending of a storm, rocking my emotions.
“I’ve been given three months to live, would you come?”
Or this, not long ago, sitting with my wife in the exam room and in stunned silence, the tears beginning to fall, the Kleenex box placed in my hand, the doctor softly saying to my dearest treasure on all this earth, “You’ve reached the end of your journey. There’s nothing more we can do.”
Or this, six years ago almost to the day, when our granddaughter was removed from life support.
Sometimes it’s the call with news we never want to hear; a medical prognosis that confirms our worst fear; an unjust accusation that is most difficult to bear.
We are not secure, none of us are, against cares and losses.
Our lives are not fairy tales, our days ahead not defined by those idyllic last six words of a child’s bedtime reading fantasy.
Ironically, it is the degradation, decay, and death that in fact describe what happens to the green leaves of summer that magically transforms them into the myriad shades of red, yellow, purple, black, orange, pink, magenta, blue and brown.
Colors that have been in the leaf all its life begin to show through, but only as the masking effect slowly fades away.
What a strange source for beauty is death, forcing the relinquishing of our masks, revealing life so precious that has been there all along.