We never really know what might blow our way.

My shoes got dusty. It was my own fault; for rather than walk around the piles, I’d tromped right through the middle. It was a kick.

    Saturday began calm; the leaves drifted from the trees, slowly enough to be studied. Later, as the breeze-speed increased, they showered in multi-colored torrents. There were some who cussed the downpour, lamenting the imminent raking and leaf-blowing. Others laughed and said, “Wait ‘til tomorrow; they’ll blow into the neighbor’s yard.” The gardeners in the group spoke of mulch and soil. Me? I just crunched them and kicked at them and occasionally picked them out of my hair.

    Our kids used to pretend to clean up the leaves from our one and only tree—and, kids being kids, they jumped into results. It was messy and expected. Eventually, we might get around to bagging them or running the lawnmower over the remnants. It was never really an urgent operation; nature would take care of what we didn’t or wouldn’t.

    There was a fall day a long time ago, similar to recent ones, when Mom picked us up from school—and we met a neighbor family to take a walk in the woods. The cattle had munched the grass short and had worn paths through the trees, along the hillsides, and down to the creek. I’ve so often wished my kids could’ve walked where I did, but the pasture is overgrown now; it would take a lot to make it passable again.

    We only took one such autumn hike that I can recall. Snacks were involved—I remember amazing cupcakes, a kind my own mother didn’t make. Though we were too young to care, the sunshine played its key role in perking up spirits already converging toward winter. There were leaves. Everywhere.

    There’s a picture of me, from another day. I’m sitting in a leaf-filled wheelbarrow with a rake perched on top—supposed evidence of some work that was done. I’m hugging the dog; he’d come to pose. I’m certain there were probably small mounds of smoldering leaves in the background.

    The snapshot captured that single moment.

    We never know, do we, what might blow our way?

    It’s easy to underestimate the power of once, choosing instead to esteem our traditions and their lasting impressions born of repetition. We might worry that time will whisk away all the little things. We may forget that life is also built upon the influences of our everyday:  an accumulation raked together, in part, by our openness to whatever drifts in and our willingness to hike through it—when one singular swirl of the leaves is enough.