All My Leaves

by Nyssa Lowenstein 

I think I’m like a tree.

If a tree wanted to cling to every single leaf it ever produced.

But I don’t want them all the time, so I will bag and box my leaves.

Protect them under my limbs regardless of season.

Use my roots to hoard them, press them in books to preserve them, tangle them in fallen sticks, throw them into junk drawers and lockets.

I never want to lose one. 

What if I lose one? 

What if I forget it forever? 

I spend a lot of time collecting all of my leaves. Dreading, catching them as they fall. Instead of reaching for the sun, or reflecting on the passage of seasons and the passage of time that will produce thicker bark, more rings, deeper roots reaching for deeper wells of water and richer soil. Nitrogen, aquifers. 

I want all my leaves. 

I want to protect and save them, out of my mind, but in physical space. I need them. They say something about me. About how I’ve lived. How I’ve been impacted by the air, the weather, the ones who want to chop me down and the ones who will attempt to rake the leaves that I so desperately want to keep but slowly smother my existence.

I weep when they disintegrate because they are not meant to last the time that I am. 

And weeping harder for the ones that I know I’ve forgotten and will never remember exactly, or the ones I can’t recall at all. 

I understand my leaves are meant for a specific purpose, that they are an extension of me for a moment, absorb the vitamin d, give insects a thing to eat or to mate on, and drop when things turn cold. Not forever. I shed them unwillingly. My aging and growth, my wrinkles and seedlings. 

But I want to protect these fronds and petals. Keep them close. They are precious. How can anyone deny they are precious?

If I were a tree that moved – I would carry them with me. 

I know that they would either fertilize my roots better if I allowed their removal. Time passed, rotated to compost, lowered fire danger, made fodder for bird’s nests, or squirrels would chase each other through them in rustling displays of flirtation. 

They would make grass greener and flowers bloom. 

But if they are no longer mine, they are no longer mine. Would someone understand them as I do?

That I want to celebrate each one no matter how painful and that’s why some of them sit in dusty boxes and others are loved to dust out in the open. Get a birthday cake and a party. Some will live longer in my consciousness because I saw them every day. Memorized. 

The ones that sit in boxes in shadowed altars in back closets peel back scars and wounds when I see them again – knowing they are important and if I lose them I will lose that pain that still rings true each time I see them. That I’m never really healed. 

It wrings me out like a towel. 

I love my leaves. I hate my leaves. They make me look haggard and a little unwell. In many ways they have stunted my growth, but are somehow crucial to who I am. Cozy and decaying. A museum.

How can I be ungrateful for them? How can I show my respect to them if I leave them behind or allow them to be swallowed by nature or the local town dump? How can they produce someone else’s mulch?

Author bio: Nyssa Lowenstein is a writer, film producer, and theatremaker. Nyssa has been previously published in The Remnant Archive, and at The Unsealed. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University with a BFA in Acting with certificates from Yale University and Moscow Art Theatre School. Originally from Denver, she currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Adam, and cat, Milton @nysistrata

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