Many Different Leaves

And it’s morning, and I’m walking Kora in downtown Salt Lake City, close to the big temple. It’s the last two days I’m sitting for her family because they’re moving to Park City so I am feeling that—saying goodbye to Kora as well as their cats, Twix and Breezy—and confronting the dynamic nature of life and the beauty inherent in the savoring of something knowing in advance that it isn’t going to last.

And the trees are half-in and half-out of Fall—some with green foliage attached— and the leaves that are on the ground are not yet soggy. Their many hours in the dark of night being just a pause, the weather too warm for dew, too temperate for frost. The leaves–not yet raked and bagged–are thick and fluffy, falling every minute now onto ground from trees preparing to sleep it off for a few months.

And people are always friendly down here near the big temple. Just west of the conference center, there is a building where the out-of-town missionaries stay for their service work, and as they walk to their placements, they often exit the building wearing a solemnity that makes me not want to laugh until they catch sight of me. And then they’re jovial and extroverted, often saying “morning! cute dog!” as we pass.

And today, as I walk Kora, a couple emerge who are holding hands stiffly; in suit and dress and long, wool coats, with nametags, they pass by in unwavering focus and say nothing. No hearty good morning to a stranger. No unofficial proselytizing. Nothing off script. Just a business-like devotion to God; just the padded existence of a religion where nothing else exists except the seriousness of the quest. Or–my mind whirs–maybe, alternatively, a marriage so bad they have nothing left except stiff hands and Elder and Sister Smith nametags. Maybe just sadness, and role play; rayon dresses and averted eyes walking towards their promised salvation like paper dolls astride silence and vulnerable emotional spaces masked by small talk.

And as I walk Kora behind this couple, Kora sniffs while I delve inside what it looks like to be them. Are they in love? Is that what 30 years gets you? Stiff hands and seriousness all part of the package they drove off the lot with. They don’t even know to be dissatisfied? Or maybe their marriage is fine and this visage is what they were told finding God should be like. That it would appear as a piousness so serious their reverie marks them even to strangers walking Husky mixes (kicked out of day care for aggression) on a beautiful fall morning in Salt Lake City.

And inside my reflective mental space this morning I bounce around inside this few minutes sharing this couple’s life. And as I walk beside this sterile couple searching for an experience of God, I feel graced to on the outside wondering; feel graced with a deeper experience of what I am and what I value, as if watching them be who they are has helped me appreciate my self and my life. My easy laugh, my curiosity, that Kora sniffed that same rock yesterday (why?), and how the morning seems to be offering the experience of fall as if an off-Broadway production.

, as if there is no other way I could have been more content in my life at this moment without being able to witness this couple being something else. For just as summer gives itself constantly to Autumn, we journey through the seasons of humanity bearing leaves of different growth, marking the time with . That these religious people and my self and Kora are living a unified whole, helping each other . Fornot yet thick making a dent from their many hours spent in the dark and cold, and it’s almost as if the night too is still trying to hang on to summer.

Are they supposed to act so serious? Is that what finding God looks like to them? When do you know you’ve experienced God, or is walking together as a long-married couple in a nametag towards the temple to do their required service work enough?

And on this morning of balancing between seasons–as the leaves pull aside summer with such grace it becomes a seduction–we part, and it’s just Kora and I, and the awareness once again that it’s one of our last jaunts. Me snapping pics to remember her by; her looking proudly at the camera knowing that I was, while everything rests into an early morning inside a synchronicity in which we’re all just fragments of a larger creation breathing one another into being.

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