I am happy to be alive. On a crisp autumn day, I revel in the falling leaves, giggle at the frantic squirrels; stop to watch a cardinal flit through some bushes; hold my breath when the deer bounds in front of my bike. A soup bubbles in the crock pot; my conversational English lesson plan is ready; the dogs are napping. Life is good. A few days later, the sun doesn’t shine, but the rain falls softly. I take two of the dogs for a run. A raven flaps its wings as it glides over my head. A squirrel uses the trees to cross my driveway. Three deer stare curiously at me and the dogs as we pass them on the bike trail. Later in the morning, the turkeys patrol my yard. Tonight I will make mac n cheese. I watch the leaves rain down into the yard and think of a line by Roger Miller: “Some people walk in the rain . . . others just get wet.” I love to walk in the rain.
This afternoon we had a severe weather advisory. The morning began with dense fog and then we waited for thunderstorms, high winds and a cold front. The Weather Channel warned that some urban flooding might occur because falling leaves clogging the storm drains. By late morning broken branches are crashing to the ground. A calm fall day has become fierce in a matter of minutes. The leaves whirling by my windows remind me of the tornado in The Wizard of Oz. Tall trees bend. Ferns quiver. The lawn becomes littered with leaves. The onslaught momentarily causes a power outage. My computer screen darkens and then hums back to life. Twice I walk the driveway clearing fallen branches. Yet by evening the storm will pass. In the meantime, I admire the show.
I want to enjoy every moment of life. Yet this is difficult to do. Thursday I am happy. Friday I want to cry. There is nothing wrong—just a sense of loss. But I haven’t lost anything or anyone. Some mornings I find myself counting days. How much time is left? An actor slightly younger than me—James Gandolfini—a writer almost a decade older—Tom Clancy—disappear from life. How many days do I have left? How am I going to spend them: Laughing at my grandchild? Dancing at my daughter’s wedding? Scrubbing the kitchen floor? Writing a poem?
I cannot know the answer to my first question. The answers to the subsequent ones are under my own control. I think of the poignant children’s book: The Fall of Freddie the Leaf. Winter comes and it’s time to let go. I haven’t arrived at winter yet. And winter is still a long way off. There is no use worrying about what might happen. The postscript at the end of the book notes that the day after the author, Leo Buscaglia died, a note was found in his typewriter: “Every moment spent in unhappiness is a moment of happiness lost.” I don’t want to waste a single moment of happiness.