It’s supposed to snow tomorrow, but oh, how I have autumn written on my heart! Christmas just passed, and autumn has come and long gone, yet I never had a chance to write about it.
This year was the first time I realized that autumn has its own soundtrack. During my lunch breaks, I circled around the park, listening to the seasons change. When the wind blew, I imagined a conductor lifting his arms, inhaling with a large gesture, and signaling the orchestra to play. There was a dissonance, as the wind carried certain branches in one direction, and other branches in an opposing direction- they were flutes, clarinets, oboes, playing different notes on a minor chord. Then when the conductor cued all the leaves, collectively, to play at the same time, the rustling was like the string section of an orchestra. The violins played a somber melody. (Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks autumn sounds like violins, so did this famous French poet!) When the wind rushed quickly past my ears, I heard ringing like the hollow sounds of a vibraphone.
One cold October morning, we traveled to New Hampshire for a fall foliage hike. As the adventurers of our group began their trek towards the top of the mountain, I was completely content near the basin, where I admired autumn with pen and paper.
“Sit here,” I called over one of the kids from our church and patted the cold rock beside me. “Tell me what you see. Use descriptive words,” I challenged her. The scent of pine and earthy soil tickled our noses.
“Beautiful trees. Orange and yellow leaves…like sunflowers?”
I grinned. Not bad for a 9 year old.
“Leaves as red as lady bugs,” she continued. Indeed, the tree bark and branches were speckles of black among a sea of colorful foliage. We gazed into the horizon of trees before us: leaves of every color, from light green to yellow, gold to orange, then red to maroon.
Roaring waters gushed over the jagged rocks, flowing down the cascades along the basin-cascade trail. When it reached the lower part of the cascades, hitting the large, flat granite where I sat, the waves became gentle and calm. It was freezing cold but so clean and fresh. “It’s clear enough to drink from!” she exclaimed. Fallen red leaves twirled as they Viennese waltzed down the streaming waters.
In late October, my sister came to visit, and we tasted all the deliciousness of fall. We relished Nutella banana French toast and eggs benedict, drove by beautiful “ombré” trees, spontaneously stopped to play in a plethora of crunchy leaves, pursued apple cider donuts, shopped for warm wool sweaters, tasted pan fried dumplings and seafood pancakes, cooked in a “it’s cold” but we-keep-each-other-warm kinda kitchen, and slurped spoonfuls of steaming jambong and jajangmyun. They were the chilliest autumn days but served with the best kinda comfort food- the fellowship of my sister and sisters in Christ.
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Suddenly November arrived like a hurricane, tumultuous with fierce winds, whipping around shock and stunning like there was no tomorrow.
One morning at work, my coworker hollered for help, and I ran into the exam room to find the patient collapsed in a chair. Her skin was pale, her chest was not rising.
“CODE!” I shouted into the hallway, alarming my coworkers.
My fingers palpated the side of her neck. My eyes skimmed her face, assessed her condition. And all the training, experience, and years of being a nurse, they culminate into that one pivotal moment – that split second when you realize…
My patient has no pulse.
“I’m starting CPR!” my hands locked and dropped deep into her sternum.
My coworkers flooded the room, and the rest of what happened…it happened so slow, yet so fast, in a blur…
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In the following days, I desperately needed those mid afternoon walks. But when I looked at the leaves, I saw things differently. Images of my patient flashed into my mind, interspersed with the changing of seasons.
The cold brushed against my cheeks.
The paleness of her feet.
Brown leaves trembled on the trees.
Her leather purse on the floor.
Hazelnuts cracked upon the sidewalk.
The jolting of her body against the exam table, after the shock of the defibrillator.
So when the wind blew, and yellow, orange, auburn leaves floated to the ground, I thought about autumn’s joys and its heartaches, its flourishing and its dying, and everything that came with…and my heart burst with glee and sorrow, all at the same time.