On Tuesday I had the distinct privilege of accompanying Toddler and her Preschool class on a Leaf Hunt. It was a beautiful fall morning and we walked to Central Park. Once there, the kids divided into two groups and got down to business.
The teachers gave each child a wonderful brown paper bag with pictures glued on the front. Toddler, far more savvy about leaf breeds than I've ever been, educated me on the difference between elm leaves, maple leaves, and oak leaves. We found several of each. After much searching, we also found a maple seed. Sadly, we were unable to locate a beech nut and a pine cone. Next time. But we did have fun kneeling down next to a vast tree and collaborating on a bark rubbing with a brown crayon.
The morning was fun. Far more than fun. The best part had little to do with the carpet of crunchy fall leaves over which we skipped. The best part was being with Toddler. In her element. With her friends and teachers. Plopped squarely in a school setting. Honestly, I was amazed at how quiet she was, how serene, almost reverent. She held my hand on the walk to the park and didn't say much.
At the park, she did her trademark prance around and focused intently on finding the treasures for which we hunted. I noticed how she kept floating her purple coat behind her like some kind of superhero. At one point, I asked her to stand next to me and I snapped a quick picture of our shadows draped against that blanket of leaves. Shadows that reminded me then and remind me now that we were there. On that little plot of earth together. Learning and loving and having fun.
Another wonderful treat? Seeing a group of kids, so young but growing, lined up on a park bench. Feet dangling, futures bright.
I can't stop thinking about the little bags they clutched. The bags with the pictures of things they should look for. What if the cosmos, a benevolent existential teacher, leaned over and gave each of us a bag like this. Small and simple. With tiny images of what we are meant to find in the hunt that is life. What would the images represent? Love? Happiness? Success? Acceptance? Health? If only, right?
Fall has always been my very favorite season. And maybe this has to do with the leaves. How they dance. How they fall. How they land. How they change. How they wait there patiently on the floors of our lives, in all their humble color and camouflage, for little hands, for big hearts, for seasons to shift.
I realize as I write this that love, whatever it is, is a lot like leaves. It changes with time, its texture evolving, its colors coming and going, its beauty a constant.
If we were given that brown paper bag from the cosmos, what would we be hunting for? Have you ever witnessed your child immersed in a school setting? What is your favorite season? Do you think love is at all like leaves?