Many of my accessories share a common “theme,” repeats of an overly loved image, symbol or pattern that speaks to me. Some, I can’t explain why I favor (I just do) and for others, the meaning is deep-seated.
By far, the most prolific imagery in my life is of the leafy variety. Leaves of all shapes and sizes are commonplace in my wardrobe. I am enchanted by them – both real and decorative. I love the elements they comprise: the mosaics and coursing lines of their veins, the flowing or rippled edges of their bodies. The variety is deliciously endless.
As a Colorado native, I think there is almost nothing more beautiful than the changing colors of the trees in Autumn as we make way toward the quiet blanket of winter snow. The vibrant greens of spring and summer turn to the bold yellows, fiery oranges and burnt reds of Fall. Eventually the leaves curl up, turn brown and finish their existence as sweet-smelling mulch underfoot.
But those details are just a bonus. Really, I love leaves because of Freddie.
In second grade, Mrs. Clogg read The Fall of Freddie the Leaf to my class. I remember sitting on the floor with the other students, silently startling when I learned I wasn’t the only one. Freddie was afraid of dying, too.
Little Freddie clings to his branch, awash in his mortality even as his wise friend Daniel offers words of comfort, urging him to accept the facts of nature.
“Everything dies. No matter how big or small, how weak or strong. We first do our job. We experience the sun and the moon, the wind and the rain. We learn to dance and to laugh. Then we die.”
“I won’t die!” said Freddie with determination.
Freddie was like me. He didn’t share his friend’s ability to calmly agree to the inevitable. My mind raced back to a night when, at 4 years old, it first occurred to me that my life would not last forever.
That night, I ripped into the quiet, screaming, railing against the realization that I would someday end.
Freddie understood how every fiber of my being fought the concept of cessation, how my heart pounded, my skin prickled and my stomach clenched. He said “no,” too.
Today, those screams still catch in my throat in the pressing silence of nighttime. I am frequently paralyzed by the same panic that my mother soothed by painting my fingernails that first night when I was 4.
In the story, Freddie eventually lets go with the help of a gust of wind. As he floats toward his fatality, he revels in the beauty of the part he’s played in the larger life of the tree.
I’ve still got a very firm grip on my branch. But the lovely leaves I often wear serve as a gentle reminder that I’ll get there.