It was another gorgeous early fall day here in Elkridge, Maryland. Cool, breezy, sunny and comfortable. After a walk around the park near home, I took a seat on a bench facing the lake that is the centerpiece. The geese are on the move, honking and circling above the water. The backdrop behind them is of trees beginning to turn, a wavering canvas of green, red and yellow.
The trees remind me of Skyline Drive in Virginia, a sight well worth the effort to get there. The lake trees do not sport the same eye-popping intensity as Skyline Drive, but they are pretty enough for this transplanted Virginian. Ha, I say transplanted but I have lived in Maryland for nearly 2o years now, so I am not sure just how much Virginia is left inside. Maybe more than I knew until today, this moment, while watching the red and yellow leaves swirl in the wind.
My last visit to Skyline Drive, eager to see the trees, was over 20 years ago when I was still a student of architecture at Virginia Tech. It was fall, I finally had a car, and was in easy driving distance of prime leaf-viewing territory. Being otherwise unoccupied on an October weekend, my then-fiance/now-wife and I hopped in the '77 Chevy Nova that served as a limo. The weather was gorgeous, and the leaves more so. I took some pretty good pictures, one of which I had blown up and that I matted myself and then gave to my parents as a gift. In hindsight, it was painfully amateurish, but that picture still hangs on the wall of my parents' dining room. Part of me likes to think the quality of the leaf photo was worthy of such display, and maybe on some level it is. Part of me, the young man that still exists somewhere in my heart, is grateful that Mom and Dad liked it because they love their son.
As I said, that visit was over 20 years ago. I also had not really spent much time there beyond that trip and visiting once or twice as a kid. Today at the lake, I found myself missing Skyline Drive a lot. It was puzzling to me, this nostalgia for a semi-familiar place far way in time and space. How could I miss so intensely a place which I hardly have known?
I think I know. Beautiful places can take root in your heart and affect you far beyond the amount of time spent in their physical presence. Stunning visuals and the feelings of the day, the joy of 'in the moment' experience, combine in a lasting imprint on the senses and the soul. No wonder I miss it.
The same can be said of beautiful human beings. It has been true since 2003 that every fall, my thoughts turn more often to the memory of my dear departed twins. I don't know them in a traditional sense, because I was only in their presence for six days, in my first daughter's case, and three weeks in my son's. Not enough time by any measure. This fleeting encounter with such incredible beauty left indelible imprints on my heart and my soul. I was fortunate beyond belief to have been with them in the short time we had together. The arrival of the twins was eagerly awaited, but upon us much too soon. Perhaps the turning of the leaves affects me in much the same manner. I wait and wonder and suddenly, God manifests!
It is sad and beautiful that leaves change color and disappear so soon. The shift from green to red, to yellow and finally brown an unavoidable echo of our tragedy. My daughter and son fell from the tree of life too swiftly, never to return. Yet the colors are beauty incarnate. In the fall I stand in the swirl of red and yellow, hoping, watching, listening to the leaves: each one a syllable in the faintly whispered names of Love.