On my many walks around the neighbourhood while we have been housebound and in semi lockdown, I have been enjoying studying the local architecture – the various building styles and the changing nature of housing tastes. The many trees and shrubs have caught my eye, too, and now there are the beautiful autumnal colours that are splashed across the trees and onto the ground.
The other day, I began to kick the red and yellow autumn leaves in the gutter in a moment of gay abandon and a form of rebellion to my constrained adult world. It felt so good.
It cast me back to being a young child in Oakleigh. I had a best friend who lived a few doors down who shared the same first name, though only with one ‘n’ in her name – an important distinction when you are seven years old. She had a huge liquid amber tree in her front yard. As children we rummaged and searched among the leaf litter, making piles of them together. We squabbled and fought over who had found the best, the reddest and the brightest. We inspected each as if they were diamonds and then threw them away when we were summoned back home.
I remember, too, the smell of autumn leaves burning in the gutters of suburban streets. Throughout my childhood years, there were always piles of raked leaves sitting in the gutters waiting to dry out and be burnt. Of course, that practice is now banned, seen as another contributor to the world’s pollution and global warming. Not politically correct either. Sometimes, though, I still catch the scent of wood burning in an open fire from one of the surrounding houses and it casts me back to the nostalgia of childhood, of safety and warmth – hot chocolate when I arrived home, peeling off my wet school clothes when I was caught in a downpour and standing in front of the gas heater, hitching up my school tunic and burning my bum.
Somehow, as children, we have lived in the moment unconcerned about the future, unaware of what tomorrow might bring. As adults we have learnt to obsess and mull over the past and fret and worry about an, as yet, unknown future. I think we must find that childlike response and enjoy the moment. To use the modern catchcry, we need to find our own mindfulness as we did as children.
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