I overslept. Waking up at 6:50 but needing to catch a 7:26 train, I rushed to shower, got dressed, walked the dog, packed my bag, and poured a cup of coffee before dashing off for the 5 minute scamper to the train station. All the aforementioned activities were done with almost no thought, an automated process whose details go unnoticed in the bustle of everyday life.
I arrived at the train station with two minutes to spare. As I walked to the southern end of the platform, I noticed someone similarly harried who stopped dead in her tracks (pun unintended.) I slowed to see that she was staring across the Hudson River. My eyes, like hers, caught the sun glistening off the Palisades, whose trees were in full autumnal splendor.
The beauty of this scene, consisting of thousands of magnificent leaves, brought a calmness over me, as if I was conscious for the first time that day. I stood for a moment weightless, the stress of morning rush had slipped away. The leaves gave me leave.
Leave is a strange word, in that within it are almost opposite ideas. Meaning both “to go away from” (e.g. I’m leaving) and “allow to remain” (e.g. leave it there.) The ideas of absence and presence exist simultaneously within these five letters.
This contradiction was on full display as I both rushed to get a train (leaving my house) and gave myself leave from this stress by pausing momentarily to feel a sense of awe and wonder.
Fall is a transitional season both in temperature and temperament. Our obligations and responsibilities are more numerous than the summer and the holiday planning and anticipatory blend of joy and stress that accompanies it still is in the offing.
We seemingly are always leaving one thing to attend to another. In doing so, we risk getting lost in this transition. An hour in October or November is the same sixty minutes as one in August or December – yet can go as unnoticed as the proverbial blink of an eye.
Yet this is a uniquely beautiful time of year. Not just because of the foliage but because of the energy, however brisk, that fills the air. Presuming we take leave to breathe it in.
So notice the fantastic foliage and the faces of little children in their Halloween costumes. Hear the morning bird songs and marvel at the moon at midnight. As you’re leaving from place to place, leave yourself some space to be in awe of what autumn brings.