My first manuscript was originally called Following Leaves. The title was meant to be a metaphor for the way we choose different paths, as though following leaves floating in various directions. (I mentioned it was my first, right?!) That manuscript morphed into The Cemetery Garden, but an underlying theme of the story remained: the consequences arising from choices made throughout one’s life. Here’s an excerpt (unedited since the original):
I looked out the window at a pile of leaves stirred up by a gust of wind. Each leaf floated through the air, separate and beautiful. One leaf, brilliant burgundy with orange markings, shaped like teardrops, fastened to the window and stuck there. Then it seemed to leap off the glass and blow away. I wanted to chase the leaf, follow its path to a new place, and forget about diaries and pain and death.
Oh, I was so proud of those lines. Luckily I’ve grown as a writer (and benefited from lots and lots of critique! As Kim says, “You’ve come a long way!”)
Five years ago I followed a path to Texas, after having lived only in Maryland. One of the many things I took for granted about the east coast was the autumn landscape. Broad brushstrokes of color over rolling hills, trees that reached the sky, and the smell of wood smoke and apples. Though the season is short in Texas, I’ve found a bit of autumn here.
At the retreat a few weeks ago, I collected leaves on a morning walk to the pier. Once home, I put my treasures in the annual retreat frame Susan gave each of us. Only after they were behind glass did I notice there were six, a distinct and colorful reminder of each of us, plus one, small and heart-shaped, as prized as a four-leaf clover (top right corner!).
Lately I’ve felt as though my leaves are scattered in all directions. In a few short weeks it’ll be winter and soon those leaves will float to the ground or settle under ice, and the trees will prepare for new blooms.
Today my husband and I took a long walk to enjoy the glorious sun and sky and high-sixties temps. The ground was covered in jewels. One here, one there, soon my hands held so many, I enlisted my husband to carry some. When I got home, I slowly twirled them in my fingers, noticing the fine, crackly lines and their fragility. One squeeze of my fist and they would be crunched to brittle pieces. I arranged them in a bowl, so I can hold autumn on my desk a little longer.