Autumn has slowly begun to exhale. The weather has turned colder and the temperature is predicted to drop quickly this week but we go outside anyways. We walk, and we stop and we exclaim in wonder over that perfect yellow-red leaf, the furry mullen, the stark trunks reaching into the sky, tenacious leaves clinging to the last.
My heart, how can it feel so light and so heavy at one time? I recall the last walk we made here in the spring, bringing with us the little girl who stayed with us for that time, and that now-dry creek bed is transformed in my mind for an instant back to the bubbling water that three little girls leaped over and through which they splashed so proudly. I recall that the toddling hiker on this trail stopping now to pick up leaves every few moments wasn't yet walking and spent the morning happily in the backpack but now clamors to get down from high on daddy's back. Where is the time going?
And those precious redheads now confidently dash ahead of me on the trail, glancing back over their shoulders before following the bend just out of sight and I realize that all of motherhood may be like this: glimpses of the years and moments past and a capturing and treasuring of the moments now, and a sorrowful joy over what is to come. That almost-five year old grinning so cocky on that log, I nearly gasp when the picture of that grin spread on a fifteen year old's face flashes through my mind.
I slow, I photograph to help me remember later what beauty was here. We admire the handiwork of the beavers, and I fail and fuss when my foot goes in the water and I am tempted to keep moaning but they all bear with me and I silence my complaints. I bite my impatient tongue with the drooping three-year-old and tell her to close her eyes and tell me what she can hear, her little hand tucked into mine as we walk by gurgling creek and screeching stellar's jay, and she smiles and plays along, no longer whining about tired legs. There is a beauty in being together, even when things aren't exactly as we might have hoped.