While raking leaves this morning, I noticed the big oak’s leaves had turned their final brittle brown. Forty-eight hours ago, I stood underneath it and took pictures of their blazing golden glory. Seventy-two hours ago they were mostly green edged in yellow.
Andy Warhol. That’s who I thought of while taking a break at the picnic table. He said everyone has their five minutes of fame. Apparently, so do trees. They stand around all summer in their green dresses looking all Southern Belle, swaying with the vapors over every sultry summer full moon and we notice them but we don’t stop in our tracks to take in their youthful beauty.
Come fall, they start to warn us that time is running out and if we are lucky enough, we might be there to witness their precious few hours of screaming glory as they morph through a color spectrum with their final breaths. Imagine that. Three hundred and sixty-four days and for less than twenty-four hours, they get to be at the most glorious perfection that they will ever be. Golden Time. I wonder if elves and sprites hear their song as music. Does it sound like this…
Which, of course, made me think of Baryshnikov. Yeah. That’s how my mind works. This man practiced in private for countless hours so that a few times a year, the world got to see how his body could fly across the boards. Just a couple of hours! If we were lucky enough to have been there to see it in person, the minutes he was on that stage burned their way into our memory. If we are still lucky enough to happen upon a recorded performance, we can relive it over and over, but it will not be the same intravenous jolt you would have gotten sitting in the darkness and feeling a drop of his sweat fly off a fingertip to smack you on the forehead.
The Samurai had a beautiful ritual of writing a brief poem on their death bed to tie a bow around their lives when they drew their final breath. Those who remember us will carry some blazing moment they witnessed with us; perhaps only a few seconds long, that occurred somewhere in the thousands of days we were alive.
Maybe it will be the sound of our voice or the touch of our hands, but one singular thing will comprise that glorious memory for them when they invoke our spirit. I hope that mine are like those leaves caught on my camera the moment their perfect song was sung. I hope that I can blaze like that, at the least a few times a year witnessed by others, or not. Like my beautiful old oak, give me five minutes of golden, glorious splendor and one witness who holds the moment in a loving embrace.
Zen Monk’s Death Poem-
Empty-handed I entered
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going —
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.
Like dew drops
on a lotus leaf
(Shinsui, died September 9, 1769, at 49 years of age)
Mikael Baryshnikov practicing jumps-. Wow. Just wow.