A Bag of Years

Off with the old, on with the new. Nature turns the page.

* * *

It’s a quiet Saturday afternoon. I stand on the back patio peeling a last-year’s orange. I watch last-year’s leaves falling effortlessly from the giant water oak overhead. It’s their time to say goodbye. The acorns already have.

Shards of sunlight filter through the interstices of the overhead branches and cast dark, skeletal shadows of the gnarled and leafless branches above. It’s nature’s pictural postmortem, so to speak. But it’s only temporary.

I’m clueless as to why I find falling leaves interesting. Maybe old age gets sentimental about anything or anybody bidding farewell. It happens every year, like birthdays. And today is my birthday. The years are piling up like so many desiccated leaves littering the driveway.

Once a week our man with his leaf blower comes by and cleans up the mess. He has an industrial strength blower strapped to his back like Rocket Man. It’s so powerful that he levitates. Once he was blown into the anise hedge and the fire department had to extricate him.

We give leaf blowers hell for the noise they create, but we don’t have time, or we’re too lazy, or both, to take the rake and remember the days of ‘when.’

It’s easier to get rid of dead leaves than dead years. Just burn ‘em or compost them. They make good fertilizer from which new growth can emerge. But we’re stuck with old years. What do we do with them?

I’m looking at my bulging bag of years now.  It’s getting pretty full, and heavier by the year. I’m wondering how long I can continue to tote this weighty bag of memories and experiences.

Some quack scientists aver that memories and experiences actually possess atomic numbers and should occupy a spot in the periodic table. That’s right, they have a specific gravity that can weigh on the mind, conscience and soul. Quite a reach, but then so is comprehending the origins of Covid.

Still, it’s fun to just dig around in our bag of years and pull out some old memories we can torch, laugh at or cry over, and then toss out like meaningless bag clutter. Like the one about leaves.

Leaves? What are leaves doing in my bag? Apparently, the word ‘torch’ sets off some ancient memory from youth.

In the old days of my childhood things were simpler. We made games out of everything. Even dead leaves. We had time to burn, plus we were bored. My father knew his Tom Sawyer psychology: To get kids to do work, make a game out of it. Then it was fun, not a chore.

“Hey, boys, go play in the leaves. And here are some matches. Be careful,” he’d say. No instructions, just have fun. Ah, yes, unchained. So, we’d rake the leaves into the ditch in big piles. We’d hide in them, or at least thought we were hiding, and pitch acorns at passing cars.

After a while this game would get old. But hey, we had some matches. And ‘careful’ is not a fully developed concept in the minds of young boys. So, we’d torch the leaves like everybody else in the neighborhood and dance around the bonfire like demons. We had no respect unto dead leaves.

The time gap is short in nature’s transition from winter to spring, from youth to old age. It wastes no time in the conversion from brown to green. The leaves, like years, even look tired as they fall next to the emerging verdant shoots of lilies.

The transitional dichotomy of the seasons is stark. The two extremes meet in an exchange, a handoff of sorts, a changing of the guard. One dies, another is born. Nature in constant motion.

In its place, almost imperceptible, is a tiny green shoot, a new leaf in the making. Did it push the old one out? Or did the old leaf just finally get tired, give up and decide it’d had enough? After all, it’s the new that converts photosynthesis into energy, not the old.

* * *

Who knows what’s in our bag of years. What to keep, what to trash. But if it gets too bulky, here are two choices:

Herbie Cohen: “Treat life as a game and have fun.” or,

Kinky Friedman: “Blessed is the match that kindles the flame.”

In the meantime, keep stuffing your bag and be proud of its contents. You’ll have to empty it soon enough.


Bud Hearn

March 4, 2023