As a little girl, Amanda Jane had always loved autumn. It was, hands down, her favorite time of year. OK, her birthday was in the fall, but that wasn’t why she loved the season. She loved the weather – the nights when the parents haven’t yet turned on the heat, so you could throw open the window and then run to get under the covers before the chilly autumn air floods your room.
Amanda Jane loved the sound of dry leaves crunching beneath her feet on walks through the woods. “It’s not as good as bubble wrap,” she would say, “but it’s still pretty cool.”
She loved the morning mist as it gently moistened and masqueraded trees and grass, houses and people. She called it, “The Mistery,” because she said it made everything look like it didn’t really exist.
She enjoyed pumpkin carving. Well, actually, her favorite part of the process was when her mother would cut a hole around the stem and remove the top of the pumpkin. Amanda Jane would stick her hand down the hole into that soft and mushy, stringy and seedy, orange and yellow goo. She loved the sensation. As she stirred her hand around inside the soon-to-be jack o’lantern, she would imagine herself a wizard mixing a magical potion. “Double bubble, oil and grubble,” she would intone in her best 7 year-old witchery voice.
She would pull a handful of the gummy gluck up out of the pumpkin, lift it high for all to see and sing out a big, “HA-HA! BEWARE, ALL YE WHO COME HITHER! THERE’S MAGIC HERE!” and then plunge her hand and the glorious glop back into the carroty cauldron for some more mixing and mashing.
But what Amanda Jane loved best about autumn was the leaves. Particularly maple leaves. “Look at them!” she would say. “Gajillions of them and not two alike.” There were the solid red ones, the mixed red and yellows, the reds rimmed with green and the mottled red, green yellow, gray, brown and white. If she could have worn clothes made from maple leaves, she would have.
In fact, one summer, her family took her on a vacation to Mexico. They visited some Aztec ruins, did some hiking and saw some beautiful cathedrals in Guanajuato and Dolores Hidalgo. But what Amanda Jane loved most was the women’s clothing. “They look like maple leaves!” she exclaimed. “They all look like maple leaves.” She even made a word for their clothes. “Meximaple,” she called them. “Their clothes are Meximaple.” She decided then and there she wanted to be Mexican or at least to dress in Meximaple for the rest of her life.” And, all in all, she had done pretty well with the latter.
Now, as a 30-something, Amanda Jane was taking an early morning walk in the autumn woods. A good friend of hers had just died of cancer and she felt somehow as if the friend had invited her out for this hike. She heard and felt the crunch of the leaves as she walked, though she still had to agree that bubble-wrap was more fun. She was surrounded by the mistery which seemed to swirl about her body with every step. She remembered her pumpkiny pulpy play. And then, there it was. A glorious maple, still holding most of its leaves and looking for all the world like a supermodel dressed in the latest Meximaple fashion.
Standing beneath the towering tree, she picked up a handful of leaves and wanted to pray. She wanted to pray for her friend and for her friend’s family. She wanted to pray for autumn: for pumpkin goo and leaf crunch, for snuggly nights and birthdays, for maples and Mexicans and the mistery. She wanted to pray for them all but was not sure how. She had read somewhere that, if the only prayer you prayed was, “Thank you,” that would suffice. So, holding her handful of leaves high, she whispered, “Thank you.” And then, looking around, she said in her best 30-something witchery voice, “HA-HA! BEWARE, ALL YE WHO COME HITHER! THERE’S MAGIC AFOOT!”