Friday, October 21, 2011


Leaf by Kathleen Nathan Memories

My dad died 20 years ago this week.  The leaves all fell off the trees in the wind and rain this week. Somehow these are connected.

My dad died in front of me twenty years ago this week – that was a real shock.  Even more of a shock: for 40 years he always told me how his father had passed away in front of him, and how it remained fresh in his mind every day.  And he always said: “that’s how I want to go”. Hey, a child never wants to hear that; a child never wants to think about losing a parent. But it happens; it’s one of the few things we can know will happen.  We just never want it to happen.  The good news (if there is any) is that he was healthy, he never suffered, he never lost any of the quality of life that we all hold dear, and he lived his life to the fullest and happiest right up until that moment. He lasted long enough after his attack that we got to say our goodbyes, but that wasn’t enough time to say and do all that I wanted.  And then he was gone from this earthly plane. And it's still like it was yesterday.

And then there are the leaves - they progressively fill the trees and the forests every spring until right about now each year. We watch them grow, we love how the trees look, and we never really stop to enjoy it because we take it for granted.  We think it happens every year so it’s no big thing. But Mother Nature is clever: she does this every year in hopes that we’ll learn to slow down and take another look, to stop and really see all the beauty in this yearly display, to better understand how to appreciate all that we have. ut we don’t. What happens is that when the wind and rain blow the leaves to the ground, we again see the barren forest for what’s really there: those bare trees silhouetted against the grey horizon brings into clear perspective again the shape and strength of the trees and the depth of the forest. Those empty vistas are not really empty, they’re giving us another glimpse of all that’s really there, of all that we should see and know every day but somehow overlook because we’re again taking all of that for granted. Those views are supposed to make us stop and realize that this amazing and natural scene is fleeting and should be appreciated every day, through every season, through all the sunshine and rain and wind and snow.  Just like the friends and loved ones we know. But we don’t.

So, now the leaves are off the trees – but they’re not really gone. There’s a vibrant carpet on the ground that’s a reminder of what was and will forever be. There’s a memory that never fades because there are so many reminders to remember. There’s a view of things as they are now that serves to remind us that they never really go away. There’s a realization in the stark vistas that remain against the backdrops of the sky, and of life, that the underlying things that remain – the feelings of love, the memories of a lifetime, the things we learned and which affected us - are the things that will remain with us forever and always make us strong. I often would like to turn back the hands of time – but that’s just not going to happen. I’d like to forever keep and have the things that I love, but that also rarely happens. So here’s the deal: know and enjoy and cherish and admit every day that you do love these kinds of things; tell the ones you love that you love them, before it’s too late and can’t; share the things you love with the ones you love, before it’s too late and you can’t; show how we feel – really show and express it – before it’s too late and you can’t; live life to the fullest with the ones you love, before they’re gone and you can’t.

I miss my Dad every day; and it’s just like he said: it seems like it was just yesterday. But, he’s still here in my heart, and in my memories, and in my mind everyday as I do things and think about things. And he’s there in that barren forest where, because the leaves are gone, I can see all that’s really there so much more clearly.

My message this week is about creativity and innovation – about how you have to make the most of what you see and get.

Arte Nathan
"Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of it after it is found." 

-James Russell Lowell

James Russell Lowell (1819 – 1891) was an American Romantic poet, critic, editor, and diplomat. He is associated with the Fireside Poets, a group of New England writers who were among the first American poets who rivaled the popularity of British poets.

What do you think you’ll find today?  Hopefully it will be something that will make you happy, wise, content and wealthy.  All of those things could surely happen, but more likely you’ll have to take what you find and make something more out of it in order for those things to ultimately occur.  Sure – you can buy a new suit of clothes and try, or a good book and learn, or a lottery ticket and hope; but chances are you’re also going to have to work hard to make the regular things in life pay off today.  You’ll have to take whatever comes your way, think long and hard on how to improve it, be creative in making the most of it, and then do all you can to make it all it can be.  So take what you find today and then use your creativity to make something out of it.

Stay well!

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