When I was younger I had not conceived of living past 21. It had been a wild run and I had lived for the day, every day. By age 35 I was peacefully content. I’d been married for nearly a decade, had my successes in work, traveled quite a bit, and was ready to surrender my life for a cause. I remember feeling that if I were to die in some type of accident, my soul would be at peace. Not that I was ready to cash out my chips, but if the worst should happen I would not be bitter as I’d had my share of fun.
It was then that I knew that I could selflessly give my life for another, and in the blink of an eye I became a father.
I was not prepared for the ways that my life would become so exquisitely fulfilled. My new job became to interpret the world for another human being. My mornings started with exhilaration, and my nights ended with exhaustion. My son drank up experience and through his eyes, my sense of child-like wonder was vicariously renewed. This gift lasted throughout his childhood. I remember one brisk October day when my son was about 4 years old, leaves littered the ground, and fell in slow-motion from the trees, seesawing their way down to the dark green grass below. It was fall in New England and the leaves rarely disappoint. As we walked through the grass we chose our favorite leaves exploding with vibrant oranges, yellows, and reds. I found a large maple leaf and held it so that it was backlit by the sun. It was deep yellow with red edges, and it must have recently fallen from the tree as it was still soft to the touch. I saw the spark of revelation in his face as we saw the veins in the leaf in the warm sun. I explained to him how patterns in nature repeat themselves in unexpected ways, how the veins in the leaf, were similar in appearance and function to the veins in our bodies. This echo deeply resonated in his young mind, and curiosity itself had found another host and was born anew.
We gathered a few of our favorite leaves and brought them inside where we pressed them in books. They were too soon forgotten and lost their vibrancy and significance as the moisture and color invisibly drained away. The magic was in the moment of discovery, and that is almost always fleeting and experiential. A dry and pale leaf discovered months later can only suggest what was at the time a revelation.