I’m Still Learning To Accept The Nature Of Things

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Marisa Donnelly

The leaves fade and fall from the tree outside my apartment building. Even in the seventy degree heat, they shrivel like its cold, drying into their oranges and browns and mixing with the late afternoon breeze. And I can’t help but think that’s silly, like the whole world is in sync, wanting to fit in, to fall.

Even when the temperature, the timing’s not quite right.

This time of year always makes me want to curl into a ball and listen to the sound of cars honking, the wind gathering its breath, those leaves being crunched underfoot, the clinking of cold beers, and the laughter of children—all sounds of my adolescence, slipping through the cracks in my bedroom window, beckoning me to twirl my curly hair and dangle my legs from the open sill, watching lives unfold all around me—wanting, so desperately to grow up, to join them.

Autumn has always given me a mix of emotions—a calm, a longing—and yet I’ve always found myself somewhere in the middle. Learning to accept the rush while also slowing down. To celebrate my youth, while still craving that sense of freedom I remember so vividly at fifteen, batting my eyelashes at the neighbor boys on their skateboards just outside that window. I had always wanted to jump, to follow them, to run down the streets barefoot and rosy-cheeked. And yet, I stayed. Rooted to that sill. Understanding then, like in all things, change would come. It just wasn’t my time.

And even now, as the leaves fall, I’m still learning to enjoy the seasons for what they are. A shift in the rhythm of things. A fade from the endless summer days to mornings, waking in chilly darkness. A quiet that not even the birds can bear.

And yet, the browns and oranges and yellows and hot chocolate and cold fingertips remind me that there’s beauty in everything. And I’m still trying to understand what that means.

I’m still trying to grapple with the brokenness of our world, the unbearable heaviness that each of us carries, and how, sometimes it feels impossible to shoulder that weight. I’m still trying to fathom how we can see our differences—painted on our skin, etched upon our hearts—and yet, we find ourselves refusing to believe that under those outer layers, we are actually the same.

I’m still trying to make sense of people who hurt just to hurt and how I can go on celebrating life when there is death settling like dust in all the cracks around me.

I’m still attempting to reconstruct myself from the pain of my past, accepting that I cannot erase parts of my story, but I can write a new chapter. And maybe that’s the first step in healing, letting go.

I’m still reminding myself that life does not stay the same, no matter how hard I try, no matter how white-knuckled my hands are, no matter how rooted I was to that windowsill.

Eventually, my time came—to dance, to sing, to sip beers on the neighborhood swing set, howling like the teenaged animal I was at that glorious, fearless moon. And eventually, the temperatures will drop, beckoning those few remaining leaves to join the rest—to crumble, to break, to reconstruct, to make new.

And isn’t that the case with everything? That our time will come? The time for the leaves, for the brokenness, for the healing, for the weight to shift and carry us, light and paper-thin, in the breeze. The time for darkness to settle in the morning hours, for the seasons to pull us away from what feels familiar, reminding us that nothing stays the same.

And maybe that’s beautiful. To know that we are never fixed to one place, one space, one spot on this earth. To know that the very nature of things is to be lost and out of place—the child with her lanky legs out the window, the one green leaf not quite ready, then swept up in the cold breeze, rushed like everything else—learning to begin again.

So maybe it’s okay that the air drips with humidity and ocean salt, but the leaves still turn brown and orange. Maybe it’s okay that the autumn months remind me of both peace and chaos, as I try to understand who I am as a woman, no longer a girl. Maybe it’s okay that I don’t have the right words for all the darkness that is spinning wildly around me because despite my tongue-tied mouth, there is still so much beauty.

Because just like the seasons, we fall, we grow, we tumble, we change, we begin again.

And maybe this process starts with understanding that our time will come. That we are okay, right where we are. And whether it’s longing or fear or not knowing what will happen next that keeps us in this place, we learn to be like the leaves. And let the wind take us. TC mark

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