Karen Rivers


Karen Rivers

Let's just stop and be grateful.  


For what?  


Well, look at the leaves.  The leaves are unbelievable, how they do that, transforming from green to gold to orange to brown, sometimes all on one leaf.  At the same time!  I mean, come on.  The leaf isn't saying, "You know what?  I'm overwhelmed.  This is just too much."  The leaf just does it.  Be a leaf.  Be a pumpkin spiced leaf.   It's fall in North America.  Put some nutmeg on that and be grateful.  Wear boots.  Leather, preferably.  Maybe a soft caramel brown.  Knee high.  With laces?  Why not.  Skinny jeans.   A too-big sweater.  Some kind of knitted hat.  Smile a lot. Kick those beautiful leaves with your boots, which are now water stained, and let them shower up around you.  Hope that someone takes a picture.  Hope they put it on facebook.  Hope that someone else sees it and says, "Wow, look at that girl with the nice boots, kicking up her heels in the fall."  Be holding a pumpkin spice latte at the time.  Be eating pumpkin bread that you made yourself.   Have new eyeshadow on that is the exact colour of decay.  Fall is decay.  Pumpkin spiced decay.   Put the whole thing on Pinterest.   Put yourself on Pinterest.  Count your re-pins.  Assume that the number of times you've been re-pinned is your value.  Your value is 2.   Those two people are actually just Pinterest spammers.  Look at yourself on Pinterest next to a picture of some tires and a really idyllic looking lakeside cabin in a photo that's been edited so much that the lake is glass and the cabin is a toy and nothing is really real.  


Re-read that paragraph and wonder how you feel about fall, for real.  Or the internet.  Or Pinterest.  Or Facebook, for that matter.  "You love Facebook," says your son.  "You love it more than me!"  "I don't even like it," you say, but he doesn't know that that is true.  You can't explain how you look at Facebook and then look at it again and suddenly it becomes compelling because you are writing something that's really good -- maybe the best thing you've ever written -- and now you can't look directly at it because it hurts your eyes and your heart, like staring at the sun, leaving a sun shadow over everything else you see.  So you look at Facebook and you think, "I should be writing!" And then you hate yourself.  The self-loathing is your shade and somehow that balances out the fact that this thing that you're writing, you love.  Maybe no one else will love it.  That happens.  The reviews say, "This didn't work."  The reviews say, "This missed the mark."  Sometimes the reviews are good.  Those ones count as validation.  Pin that.  Pin everything.  Pin the life you wish you had and sit and stare at the screen, comparing your actual life in your uninsulated, ratty house to the life you could have if somehow you had the money for the subway tile that you don't even like.  It's a metaphor.  Everything is a metaphor.  You see people with subway tile and you feel sad for them.  How's Pinterest? you want to say.


Add up the hours you spend on Pinterest.  Facebook.  Twitter.  


Judge yourself for that.  Judge everyone.  You are the judge.  Be the judge.  Hate yourself for being so judgemental.  Make a pithy comment about that on Facebook.  Count your likes.  

Be grateful that you can turn it off.   Just close the computer.  Walk away.  Here's what you should do:  Go for a walk in the woods.  Go alone.  Try not to be afraid of the strange man you sometimes pass who shouts.  He probably doesn't even have Facebook.  Neither should you.  You should quit that.  Quit everything.  What matters is the words.  The book is good.  You know it.  Just typing that has tempted fate.   "Good?" laughs Fate.  "It's terrible.  No one will buy it."  Wish that you hadn't typed that.  Wish you hadn't put that out there.  "I think this is good," you whisper.  "NO," says everything and everyone.  Maybe you shouldn't write it.  Maybe you should.  Come on, you need to insulate the house for winter.  It's cold in here.   Get to work.  


Anyway, walk.  


Under your feet, the leaves are decaying, becoming dirt again.  In the spring, the trees will green up, so they can go through this abscission once more, twice more, forevermore.  Say the word "abscission" out loud.  God, it's a good word.  Breathe deeply.  That's real air, in real life, heavy with moisture and the smell of decay.  Say the word "decay" over and over again.  If your laptop could smell like something, it would be pumpkin spice.  Somewhere a clothing manufacturer is trying to figure out how to make sweaters smell like nutmeg.  You don't know why suddenly people have forgotten this, the real smell of fall, the leaves and the cool dampness of everything, the world becoming fertile again, waiting to burst forth, for no reason other than that's how it always is, how it's always been, how it will be forever while you sit inside, looking at hairstyles and kitchens, ordering a new pair of jeans, not even opening the back door, not even going outside.

For God's sake, go outside.  Write an ode to the fall.  Do not mention that god damn pumpkin spice.  


Well, you did.


I know, but I can't help it.  It's just there.  It's ubiquitous.  (That's another terrific word, no?)


Shut up.

Be grateful.  Get on your knees on the ground.  It all goes away.  Everything you thought mattered, you won't remember at the end.  You'll remember the feel of the rain on your skin, the way the wind lifted your hair, the way you walked in the woods and the woods changed around you, evolving and evolving and evolving.  You won't even know that you bought that sweater, it will long since have been donated, which is worthy enough in itself, but give me a break:  Stop buying things that you'll be happy to get rid of one day.  Stop looking at Pinterest and feeling like nothing measures up.   Trust me.  I will if you will.  I have.  I did.  I never even had Pinterest.  I lied about Pinterest.  I can't even bring myself to sign up.  I already know that nothing is good enough.  Things could be better.  Shinier.   Photographed from a better angle.  Prettier, in general. 


Look, everything is a metaphor.   Pumpkin spice is a metaphor for the way the corporations have won.   That's all I'm saying.  It's a conspiracy theory.  It's not even a theory.  It's probably a conspiracy.   


Conspire in a different way.


Go outside.  


That's where I'm going, the dry leaves crunching under my rubber boots, the path slippery with mud in places, water starting to flow down the hill.  The mountain is waiting for someone to climb it, for someone to see the magnificence that it's been making while we've been at Starbucks, waiting for another cup of chemicals to wash down the whole season, propelling us to Christmas, where we will have to remember to buy all the things, to insulate ourselves against everything that isn't good enough while making us feel like if we buy enough, we'll get there, to that place where Pinterest will be us and we will be it and a million re-pins will let us know that we won, we got it all, we have the best, so we are the best.  And meanwhile, the trees on the mountain will cycle through again and again from green to gold to orange to red to brown and we will blink and miss it and at the end of the day, who is the happiest?  


It's not a contest.  Nothing is. 


The leaves turn brittle and turn to dust.  But they don't mind.  They aren't ruing the loss of themselves.  They aren't moisturizing and painting themselves green.  They fall gleefully.  They fall unemotionally.  Don't be ridiculous, leaves don't think.  They just are.  They just do what they do.  Green, gold, orange, red, brown.  

I'm content in the woods, my body moving through the overgrown scrub, the water from the last rain lurking on the leaves and soaking through my cable-knit sweater, the one with the toggle buttons.  My legs in their perfectly distressed skinny jeans carry me to the summit.  


This is fall.  This is what it is.


I'm grateful for that.  Thank you, I say.  Thank you.  No one hears me.  No one else is out here.  Everyone is at work.  Christmas is coming.  There is so much we'll need to buy.   There is so much more we need to get.   It's going to be a new season.  It's going to be time to flavour our clothes with eggnog.  It's still nutmeg, dogging us through time, reminding us who we really are, consuming and consuming and consuming.


Nutmeg is poisonous in large quantities.


This was meant to be about thanksgiving.   Let's give thanks for the leaves.  Let's give thanks that we're here.  Let's give thanks for all we don't have, that we're better off without.  Let's give thanks for the damp, decaying earth and how we can kneel here, grateful.  


Then Pin it.  Someone else will want it.  Someone else will put it on their board, those leaves all around on the ground, your knees pressing into the cold wet dirt, the colors edited to perfection, the moisture shining on them like diamonds, like a fortune.