I recently went for a weekday afternoon walk in my neighborhood. This is a rare thing, as I am usually downtown working at the office during the week. But on this day, I was home, so I was lucky to have the chance to go walking, armed with a light canvas bag for collecting leaves.
When I was a freshman in college, as the first Clinton election approached, I went crazy for leaves (and flannel and big, baggy Levi 501's). My new best friend and I would gather armfuls and take them to the student union, to people's apartments, to the long wooden table at the sorority house we would both leave the next year.
I went to college in Northern Idaho, and on that beautiful Moscow campus there are many many towering oaks and maples, so there were always lots of leaves to be found. This friend of mine was also into puns, so for many weeks I received notes written in purple pen that said "I leaf you" or "Don't leaf me." As many at that age are, we were quite infatuated with our own cleverness.
I thought then that we would be forever friends, but it wasn't to be, and that close, clever friendship turned out to be fleeting. Really, we both changed, and thus went, in different ways. The next Fall, she was in Sweden on exchange. We both made new friends, fell in love, changed. We wrote almost daily emails for that whole year and nothing indicated that it would be the last year of our closeness, in fact, the opposite. The messages were long, detailed missives about everything that was happening for each of us. But the next year, when she returned, everything was different.
Sometimes friendships recover, sometimes they don't. We both made our efforts at different times, trying to honor the two years, one real, one virtual, that we had been so close, but it never came back together.
Now when the leaves fall, I think of her, and of being so young, so full of ideas and thoughts and self-importance, and of rejoicing in the season of death and return when my existence felt eternal.
On my walk the other day I filled my bag with leaves for another old friend, who lives where there is no Fall, and who I missed seeing this year, and have missed too many times. I pressed them and sent them to her with a card, to tell her that I'm glad we're friends, that she is special to me. Because Fall is a time for planting, too.