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Kicking Through the Leaves

Additional essays by Donald Skiff
200 pages

To buy Kicking Through the Leaves click here.

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Foreword

One of the things I remember fondly from my childhood in the suburbs (not todayís suburbs, with their large lots and no sidewalks and the grocery store miles away) was walking down a sidewalk in the fall, kicking the leaves and maybe throwing a stick for my dogówho was not on a leash. The smell of burning leaves (a citable offense these days) brings back a flood of memories.

Thereís a risk in old age of blowing up all those old memories so that they take up all oneís time and leave little room for experiencing life as it winds down. Fear, maybe, keeps us from living in the present. Ironically, as "The days dwindle down / To precious few / September, November / . . ." as Frank Sinatra sang forty years ago, itís sometimes easier to waste what few we have left, avoiding the present to dwell in the past. True, the present often is filled with pain and confusion and embarrassment. But those things come to be routine and can sometimes be pushed into the background so that the important things can be experienced and tasted and enjoyed. Love, for example. At this stage in my life Iím keenly aware of my good fortune in having someone in my daily life who shares with me the feeling of spring air and sunshine and the touching of bodies and souls. I know that any day could reveal, starkly, the impermanence of such joy. I must remind myself constantly: Taste each moment.

Of all the benefits of old age, time seems to be the most paradoxical. Through my youth and middle age, it seemed I had no choice but to focus on making a living. Everything else had to be squeezed into my remaining hours. Since I retired, Iíve been fortunate to have the time to pursue other interestsóreading, writing, photo-graphing, tinkering and just thinking. At the end of the day, I sometimes wonder where the time went. I have difficulty accounting for the hours. And the number of hours I have available to me keeps shrinkingójust when Iíve discovered what life is for, itís running out!

For me, writing is the path to understanding. Often, I donít know what I think or what I feel until I try to write it down. I get glimmerings of insight as I read, but until I attempt to put them into words they are like fluffy clouds, coming and going. If I donít pay attention, they dissolve before my eyes.

I also discovered many years ago that photography was a similar response: trying to capture what I saw, hanging onto things that I wanted to remember.

Both activities also shared another benefitóthey allowed me to grasp things in the privacy of my own mind. Thereís a part of me, of course, that wants to share my internal life with others. For some lucky souls, sharing is just second nature. They donít have to stop and think, or monitor what they express. I envy them sometimes, and Iím often grateful for what they bring to my life. My own reticence (whatever its psychological sources) has been reinforced by years of habit. So I write, perhaps, instead.

Writing no longer is my living. Itís more my life. Itís kicking through the leaves of memories and thoughts. Among these leaves, pages written in the past year, you might get a glimpse of me.

Don Skiff, May 1, 2007